Saturday 13 August 2022

Half of Dutch do not support national apology for slavery

The monument to slavery in Amsterdam’s Oosterpark. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Although most Dutch people believe that the country had a ‘serious’ role in the history of slavery, half do not think the nation should apologise, according to a new poll.

I&O Research, commissioned by the newspaper Trouw, asked a representative. 1,241 Dutch adults what they thought about the country’s past record and what should be done about it.

They also distinguished between people who had grandparents born abroad and those who had been Dutch for several generations. They found that people with a non-Western ethnic background were more likely to think the Dutch slaving past was serious (68%) compared with the overall figure of 56%.

Overall, 55% of the respondents did not think the Netherlands should apologise for the past, something which last year prime minister Mark Rutte said was ‘not a good idea’. However, parties such as liberal democrats D66 have urged the nation to make a formal apology, following increasing discussions about ‘systematic’ problems with racism in the Netherlands.

People with a Dutch ethic origin were most likely to oppose a national apology (62%), while people whose descendants came from Suriname or the Dutch Antilles were most likely to support one (with 70% in favour). More than half (54%) of those with an Indonesian background did not want a national apology.

Those who wanted an apology wanted an acknowledgement of past suffering, greater awareness of Dutch history, and to combat modern-day racism. Those who disagreed said you could not make excuses for the wrongs of previous generations and 45% believed an apology would further polarise the country.

However, Amsterdam has been working on plans to formally say sorry for the city’s role in slavery for several years and Rotterdam is also considering doing this. The Dutch central bank DNB has also launched an independent investigation into its historical links with slavery.

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