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Hague mayor apologizes for past slavery

The Hague municipality on Sunday apologized for its role in the history of Dutch colonialism and slavery. Mayor Jan van Zanen apologized for “the way his predecessors supported and benefited from colonialism and slavery” when investigating the city’s actions at the time.

The Hague commissioned a study last year from the Royal Institute for Languages, Land and Ethnology (KITLV) in Leiden. This is similar to what has already been completed in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht. Those local authorities also apologized upon completion of his report, as did The Hague on Sunday.

Van Zanen said an apology “cannot undo the immeasurable suffering that has been inflicted upon your ancestors, or those of the many other residents of The Hague.” None of the current residents of The Hague will be held responsible for the actions of residents and administrators.”

Unlike Amsterdam and Rotterdam, The Hague was not directly part of the VOC and WIC, the trading organizations where the Dutch controlled the colonies and traded slaves. At the same time, The Hague was the city of parliament, the starters that ruled over different regions, the kings and queens. So the decisions about colonization and slavery were made in The Hague. The Hague city council supported colonialism “as needed” and city councilors were “financially involved in slavery,” researchers said.

KITLV further concluded that there were indeed residents of The Hague who played a key role in slavery. “Many Hague nobles and regents held shares in the company, served on the board of directors within the VOC and his WIC, worked as company servants in the colonies, or owned plantations with slaves, so the Hague benefited from foreign trade.”

The Hague is also currently working to commemorate its past ties to slavery in other ways. Five of his sites are being considered, including his two sites in the Old Colonial Ministry, the Mauritshuis, the gardens of the Noordeinde Palace and the Langevoorhout. A memorial service will be held at the memorial.

Next year will be 160 years since the Dutch abolished slavery. In Van Zanen’s words, the memorial must make “the memory of the suffering caused by colonialism and slavery” a permanent place in the collective memory of The Hague.

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