Friday 27 January 2023

DNB chief apologises for the bank’s past role in slavery

The monument to slavery in Amsterdam. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

President of the Dutch central bank DNB Klaas Knot has apologised for the bank’s historic role in slavery at Friday’s Keti Koti ceremony to commemorate the end of slavery in the former Dutch colonies.

Knot had said earlier the bank would make ‘a gesture that would have lasting value’, NOS reported.

‘Apologies to all descendants of enslaved people in the Netherlands, in Suriname, on Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba, on Aruba, Curaçao and Saint Martin island,’ he said. ‘Apologies to all people who were reduced to a skin colour due to the personal choices of my predecessors.’

In February the bank reported on its own investigation into its founders, who were found to be closely involved in Dutch slave trade practices in the former colonies of Suriname and the Antilles. Knot said at the time he ‘deplored’ the bank’s role but stopped short of an apology at the time.

Other banks are also investigating their colonial past. ABN Amro apologised in April for its share in the fate meted out to enslaved people while the ING’s investigation is ongoing.


Friday’s Keti Koti (‘broken chains’) festival both celebrates the end of two centuries of slavery in 1863 and commemorates the people who suffered during that time.

It is the first time in three years that members of the public will be allowed to be present at the festivities in Amsterdam’s Oosterpark.

Apart from Knot, other speakers include minister for legal protection Franc Weerwind and Amsterdam mayor Femke Halsema.

Weerwind will not be apologising on behalf of the government, although he made a strong call for more non-ethnic Dutch representation earlier this week. A formal apology for slavery has been postponed until later this year because it is currently deemed ‘unfortunate timing’.

National holiday

A suggestion to make July 1 a national holiday has not been met with a positive response either. Campaigners hope the government may change its mind next year, when it is 160 years since slavery was abolished in the Dutch colonies.

Meanwhile, some 100 companies have decided not to wait and are giving staff a day off.

Keti Koti celebrations are being held across the country. Rotterdammers are invited to go to the library or online and pick up a free copy of Koloniaal Rotterdam (Colonial Rotterdam) to find out more about the city’s involvement with slavery.

Live TV and radio coverage of the ceremony by broadcaster NOS starts at 1pm.

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