Linking the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Republic of Suriname

1. The Kingdom of the Netherlands

World War II

At the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, the Netherlands declared itself neutral as it had done during World War I. Even so, on 10 May 1940, Germany invaded the Netherlands, and the battle continued until 14 May 1940 when the Dutch main force surrendered. Dutch forces in the province of Zealand continued to resist the Wehrmacht for another three days. Nazi Germany then occupied the Netherlands.

The colonies were free: Dutch East Indies, Dutch New Guinea, Netherlands Antilles (Curacao and Bonaire located off the coast of Venezuela, and Sint Maarten, Saba, and Sint Eustatius lie east of the US Virgin Islands), Suriname.

Queen Wilhelmina and the Dutch government left the Netherlands for London as did many Dutch people for the United Kingdom.

The Dutch navy managed to get most of its ships to England. The Netherlands' merchant marine, contributed to the Allied war effort. A few Dutch pilots joined the RAF to fight in the Battle of Britain. In July 1940, two all-Dutch squadrons were formed from the Dutch naval air force: 320 Squadron and 321 Squadron. The Royal Netherlands Military Flying School was re-established at Hawkins Field, Jackson, Mississippi. In 1942, the Princess Irene Brigade was formed, and would participate in Operation Overlord in 1944. In 1943, the all-Dutch '322 Squadron' was formed in the United Kingdom.

Oppression Persecution Deprivation
Of the 140,000 Jews that had lived in the Netherlands prior to 1940, only 30,000 survived the war. Over 100,000 were rounded up and transported to Nazi German concentration camps in Germany, German-occupied Poland and German-occupied Czechoslovakia. By the time these camps were liberated, only 876 Dutch Jews survived.

Netherlands concentration camps

Concentration camp name     Number of prisoners     Number of deaths      
Amersfoort   35,000      1,000      
Herzogenbusch (Vught) 31,000     750      
Westerbork 102,000     Unknown

Thousands of Dutch people risked their lives by hiding Jews. Yet thousands collaborated with the occupying force in hunting down hiding Jews. Local fascists and anti-Bolsheviks joined the Waffen-SS in the 4th SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Brigade Netherlands, fighting on the Eastern Front as well as other units.

Arbeitseinsatz (Labour input) required all men aged 18 to 45 year to register and work in German factories, which were bombed regularly by the western allies.

Civilians were killed in reprisal for attacks on German soldiers.

The Atlantic Wall was a coastal defence line built by the Germans that stretched from south-western France to Denmark and Norway, and included the coastline of the Netherlands. Scheveningen and other towns were evacuated, 20,000 houses were cleared or demolished, and 65,000 people were forced to move. The Arbeitseinsatz decree required Dutch men to work
on these clearing projects.

The countryside was plundered for food to feed German soldiers and for transporting to Germany.

The exiled Dutch government appealed for a railway strike for September 1944 to further the Allied liberation efforts. The German invader countered with an embargo on food transport to the densely populated western provinces above the great rivers. Thus began the Hongerwinter famine of 1944-45, and 18,000 people died from starvation.

This famine occurred in a modern, developed and literate country, albeit suffering under the privations of occupation and war. In early November 1944, the embargo on food transport over water restrictions was lifted. However, the winter was unusually early and harsh, and canals froze over and became impassable by barges - food stocks quickly ran out. Several factors aggravated that dire situation: the retreating German military destroyed docks and bridges to flood the country to impede the allied advance; the country was a vast battlefield and agricultural land was destroyed; there was widespread dislocation; and the transport of food stocks was difficult.

The Dutch Famine Birth Cohort Study found that the children of pregnant women exposed to the famine were more susceptible to diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and other health problems. Moreover, the children of the women who were pregnant during the famine were smaller, and when these children grew up and had children those children were also smaller than average. The data suggested that the famine experienced by the mothers caused epigenetic changes that were passed down to the next generation.

By the end of the war, 205,900 Dutch men and women had died. The Netherlands had the highest per capita death rate of all Nazi-occupied countries in Western Europe, 2.36%. Another 30,000 died in the Dutch East Indies, either while fighting the Japanese or in camps as Japanese prisoners of war. Dutch civilians were also held in those camps.

2. The link

My parents were dealing with the trauma and after-shock of war. Dad decided that the situation in the Netherlands was dire and hopeless. He was angry with the government and authorities for failing to improve the economy and job security. He was commissioned to make a survey of Suriname's suitability for Dutch emigrants, and went there on 4 February 1947 with his friend and colleague Wim van Heldern.

After 1940-1945 war, there were many Dutch people desperate to leave the country, this was caused by their disappointment in the early years following the war when there were acute shortages of goods and services and their corrupt distribution, with the result that many willing to work were  unemployed. However these people saw different possibilities for a better future, and they sent two representatives to our overseas colony Suriname. W van Heldern and A van Amelsvoort depart on 4 February 1947 for a survey tour of the new homeland.

Suriname Journal 1947 PDF

My dad's tone is powerful, determined, and unequivocal that he seriously considered uprooting his family to that land across the Atlantic in south America. However, upon his return in May 1947 the dream had faded and dad's journal concludes that Surname was not a suitable country for Dutch emigrants. So that 7 years later my family (mum, dad, and 5 kids) boarded the SS Sibajak and emigrated to Melbourne, Australia.

3. The Republic of Suriname

Background: Suriname was first explored by the Spaniards in the 16th century and then settled by the English in the mid-17th century. Suriname became a Dutch colony in 1667.

1593 - Arawak and Carib tribes lived in the region before Columbus sighted the coast and Spain claimed the area. Portuguese and Spanish explorers of the time gave the area little attention. They named it Suriname, after the country's earliest inhabitants, the Surinen.

1600 - c.1650 - Settlements were attempted by Spanish, Dutch (1616), British, and French during the first half of the 17th century. They fail, in part because of resistance by the native inhabitants.

1651 - First permanent European settlement, established by the British at Paramaribo by Lord Francis Willoughby.

1664 - Justinian Von Welz authors three powerful pamphlets on the need for world missions; he goes to Suriname and dies after three months.

1765 - Suriname Governor General Crommelin convinces three Moravian missionaries to work near the head waters of the Gran Rio. They settle among the Saramaka near the Senthea Creek in Granman Abini's village where they are received with mixed feelings.

1667 - British cede their part of Suriname to the Netherlands in exchange for New Amsterdam (later called New York City). However, the colony did not thrive. Reasons include Holland's preoccupation with its more extensive (and profitable) East Indian territories, violent conflict between whites and native tribes, and frequent uprisings by the slave population, which were often treated with extraordinary cruelty, and many escaped the plantations. With the help of the native South Americans living in the adjoining rain forests, these runaway slaves established a new and unique culture. Known collectively in English as the Maroons, in French as the Nèg'Marrons and in Dutch as "Bosnegers," they established several independent tribes. The Maroons often raided the plantations to recruit new members, acquire women, weapons, food and supplies. These attacks were often deadly for the planters and their families, and after several unsuccessful campaigns against the Maroons, the European authorities signed several peace treaties with them in the 19th century, granting the Maroons sovereign status and trade rights.

1699 - Maria Sibylla Merian at the age of fifty-two, embarked for Surinam with her daughter Dorothea Maria. They returned two years later after a bout of malaria, but her dream had been fulfilled, and she brought home a wealth of recorded observations and specimens. Encouraged to publish her findings, she spared no expense in preparing the original paintings for a volume on Suriname. Maria Sibylla Merian published Metamorphosis Insectorum Surinamensium describing insect species and other animals she studied in Suriname, and the first edition appeared (in Latin and Dutch) in 1705, containing sixty plates.

1799 - On 20 August Suriname surrendered to a British squadron commanded by Vice- Admiral Lord Henry Seymor and British rule was re-imposed: 1799-1802 and 1804-1816.

19th century - Dutch farmers began arriving from Gelderland and Groningen.

1806 - John Gabriel Stedman (1744-1797) Narrative of a five years' expedition, against the revolted negroes of Surinam, in Guiana, on the wild coast of South America; from the year 1772 to 1777: elucidating the history of that country, and describing its productions ... with an account of the Indians of Guiana, & negroes of Guinea

Buried at St. Mary, Bickleigh, Devonshire ... Death notice in The Gentleman's Magazine, May 1797, p. 435, reads: March 5. At Tiverton, Devon, aged 52, Capt. J. G. Stedman. He entered in the navy, but relinquished it on the last peace, and accepted an ensign's commission in one of the Scots brigade-regiments paid by the Dutch. He had attained the rank of lieutenant when the measure of sending a military force against the rebel negroes on the river Cottica, in Surinam, the most important, and now the only remaining, Dutch possession on the coast of Africa, was projected. Impelled by a desire of exploring a part of the world not generally known, and the hope of preferment in such a dangerous service, he obtained a mission into the corps of 500 volunteers, formed into seven companies, embodied as a regiment of marines, and intended for Surinam, and was advanced by the Prince of Orange to the rank of captain, by brevet, under Col. Tourgeoud, a Swiss, commander in chief. He quitted the Texel on Christmas-day 1771, and anchored in Surinam river Feb. 2, 1773. He soon formed an attachment with a beautiful negro-girl of 15, one of the natural children of a Dutch planter, whose goodness of heart, and faithful attachment to him, were still more endearing than all her personal attractions; but, by the laws of the settlement, she could not be redeemed from slavery, or brought home to Europe, but died of poison, a victim to jealousy, before the captain quitted her. After undergoing a variety of fatigues, and witnessing the most horrid cruelties, as well s most extravagant dissipation, in the colony of Surinam, he returned to his native country; and, a little before his death, published an interesting narrative of the expedition against the revolted negroes of Surinam, in two volume, 4to, illustrated with 80 elegant engravings from drawings made by himself. He has left a widow and five children.

1835 - The wooden Neve Shalom synagogue was built.

1926 - The Salvation Army's work starts.

1947 - The colonization pursued by the Freeland League was targeted at the Saramacca district, west of Paramaribo. At the end of 1947 and the beginning of 1948, a group of five American experts commissioned by the League made a thorough survey of the spot and concluded that the area was suitable for the Jewish colonization. A few months after the foundation of the State of Israel (14 May 1948), the governor of Suriname suspended the discussion on the Jewish immigration until there was ‘total clarification of the general international situation.' That concluded the Jewish colonization scheme in Suriname. The Freeland League had earlier focused on Australia's Northwest region. Isaac Steinberg launched a campaign in Australia, and it seemed that he would succeed. However,the League failed to obtain consent from the federal government which rejected the plan in 1944. They did not want a mass influx of Jewish refugees from Europe to settle as a separate group in a remote part of the country.

Plantation system

Suriname was exploited under the plantation system: a form of political organisation for the purpose of producing an agricultural staple sold upon a world market.

1682 - Sugar cane plantations were established and worked by African slaves. Production kept populations on the coastal plain. Every acre in cultivation was a struggle with the sea at front and flood behind. As a result of arduous labour over two centuries, a narrow strip of land along the coast was created from mangrove swamps and an elaborate system of canals and ditches, dams and dykes. The construction involved slaves moving some 100 million tons of soil with pick and shovel in conditions of perpetual mud and water. Sugar estates yielded a significant profit for their owners.

Sugar was the main product in the 17th century, while in the 18th century coffee, cocoa, cotton, tobacco, and indigo exports began to play an important part as well.

1718 - From the Amsterdam garden, plants were sent to the Dutch colony of Suriname, and the planters began the cultivation of coffee.

Plantations steadily declined in importance as labour costs rose. Rice, bananas, and citrus fruits replaced the traditional crops of sugar, coffee, and cocoa.

Slavery and indentured labourers

Slave numbers in 1800 by country/region

Country/region     Number of slaves      
British West Indies     600,000      
Other British  Colonies      150,000      
United States     857,000      
Brazil 1,500,000      
Spanish America     250,000    

Slavery and indentured labourers shaped the history of Suriname.

Slaves from Africa were imported from 1650 and the trade lasted until 1826. During this period of 175 years some 300,000 to 350,000 slaves were imported. Following the prohibition of the slave trade, the number of new slaves dropped to 1,000 per year, until 1826 improved methods of registering slaves made it almost impossible to smuggle slaves into Suriname.

1 July 1863 - An estimated 45,000 slaves became free men and women. On that day the Netherlands abolished slavery. The majority of those slaves, 34,000 of them, lived in Suriname. But the slaves were not fully released until 1873; the apprenticeship was a mandatory 10 year transition period during which time they were required to work on the plantations for minimal pay and without state sanctioned torture. The Dutch were among the last Europeans to abolish slavery.

In the spring of 1863 a state commission toured the plantations of Suriname to check that the slaves recorded by the owners in their bordereaux actually existed. But the commission did something else, too: it gave every slave a family name. All the personal details of every family member on every plantation were recorded by the commission in the Emancipation Register. This information included their given name, sex and age. The contents of this Register, is preserved in Paramaribo.

The Netherlands decided to abolish slavery as early as 1848. Yet it took until 1863 to implement the measure because Parliament was unable to agree on the compensation to be paid to slave owners for the workers they would lose through abolition. It was eventually decided that 300 guilders would be paid for each slave. To ensure that the state did not pay too much, the slave owner was required to complete a list of questions known as a "bordereau" (a detailed statement). The government wanted to know exactly how many slaves the owner had, where they worked, what they did, their age and religion. After use, these bordereaux were preserved in the archive of the Netherlands Court of Audit, which is now held by the Nationaal Archief. The Court of Audit was charged with carefully monitoring the compensation paid, a total of 10 million guilders.

The emancipated slaves were unwilling to continue working on the plantations, and their low rate of natural increase led to a shortage of plantation labourers after 1893. In order to fill the need contract labourers were brought to Suriname.

Period Number and source country History
1863-1872 500 from Portuguese from Madeira

In 1869 Portugal closed its harbour to emigrants. When
their contracts ended, they turned to store keeping and
trade, and in time many returned to their homelands.

1863-1872 2,500 Chinese from China

In 1869 China closed its harbour to emigrants. When
their contracts ended, they turned to store keeping and
trade, and in time many returned to their homelands    

1863-1872 2,400 West Indians from Barbados  
1872 - 1916

33,824 Indians from British India

1853 -1933 33,299 from Java 7,229 Javanese were repatriated. Some of the remaining Javanese stayed on the plantations, and the rest became independent farmers.


1954 - Suriname was given full autonomy, with the Netherlands retaining control over its defence and foreign affairs. Suriname, the Antilles and the Netherlands signed the Statute of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The inhabitants of these territories obtained full Dutch citizenship, permitting them to take up residence in the 'mother country' without any restrictions.

1973 - negotiations regarding the full independence of Suriname began. The announcement of the transfer of sovereignty also marked the beginning of an exodus from Suriname to the Netherlands, which was a major setback for a republic yet to come into being. Paralysed, The Hague watched events unfold.

On 26 June 1975, five months before the transfer of sovereignty, Suriname and the Netherlands reached full agreement on a migration policy to be adopted following Independence. Surinamese residing in the Netherlands on independence day, 25 November 1975, would receive Dutch citizenship. Surinamese nationality would be obtained by those born in Suriname as well as living there, or having their main residence there at the date of Independence. With Surinamese nationality being obtained, Dutch nationality would be lost. Furthermore, Surinamese wanting to take up residency in the Netherlands after Independence would be exempt from visa requirements until November 1980 on the condition that they could prove to have acquired accommodation and means for subsistence. This was a compromise; Suriname had not wanted any visa requirements at all, whereas initially the Netherlands had. In this way the virtually free migration to the Netherlands would continue unimpeded during the first five years following independence.

For Suriname the results of this episode have been dramatic. Between July and November 1975 the emigration flow continued: each month at the rate of 3 to 4,000 Surinamese, people with no confidence in the economic and political future of their country, left for the Netherlands. Dutch policies failed to allay serious doubts of many concerning the fate of the Republic. The Dutch cabinet had to admit that once again the flow was larger than expected. Suggested solutions even included reducing the number of airline seats on the route Paramaribo-Amsterdam – where the Royal Dutch Airlines KLM was making good money by considerably increasing its number of flights - buying these and thus blocking them. In the end, however, The Hague simply allowed things to take their natural course.

Between 25 November 1975 and 25 November 1980 another 30,000 Surinamese would settle in the Netherlands and obtain Dutch nationality. As pointed out above, due to the exodus the total population of the Republic has barely grown, while the size of the Surinamese society within the Netherlands, including second and third generation, is now estimated at over 315,000. For the 467,000 citizens of the Republic of Suriname this development has had far-reaching and according to some catastrophic effects.

At the time of its independence, Suriname had 360.000 inhabitants, slightly more than one-third of the population (37 per cent) is of Indian origin, descended from 19th-century indentured labourers. Other large population groups are mixed black-white Creole (31 per cent), Javanese (15 per cent), and Maroons (10 per cent), the descendants of West African slaves who were imported in the 17th and 18th centuries and escaped inland. The rest of the population is comprised of Amerindians (2 per cent), Chinese (2 per cent), whites (1 per cent), and assorted others (2 per cent). The official language is Dutch, though English is widely spoken, as is the Surinamese Creole, Sranang Tongo (also called Taki-Taki). Hindustani and Javanese are also spoken. The capital Paramaribo had 18.000 inhabitants. Religiously the population of Suriname was divided into 25 per cent Hindu, 20 per cent of Catholics, Protestants and Muslims each.

Population by country and years

Year Netherlands Suriname
1945 9,220,000     189,000      
1975 13,599,100     364,500      
2010 16,715,999     467,000    

The Dutch, as people, may have left Suriname; but the people they met there - Carib and Arawak Indians - and, more preponderantly, the people they brought there - Africans, Indians and Javanese - are the forbears of today's Surinamers. And the systems that conditioned their lives over the centuries of colonisation are an integral part of the history of Suriname.

That first landfall turned into a holocaust for the original inhabitants of Suriname and those people of the general region. The conquests and dispossession that brutally marked the period after 1492 saw the depletion of populations to the point of genocide through oppression and disease, the deracination of long established ways of life, the sudden near extinction of cultures and civilisations which held their own worth and were nurtured through centuries of adaptation and creativity.

Mining and agriculture

1900 - Exports of gold rose.

1916 - Aluminium Company of America (Alcoa) begins mining bauxite that becomes Suriname's main export.

23 November 1941 - Under an agreement with the Netherlands government-in-exile, the United States occupied Suriname to protect bauxite mines.

1958 - Suralco signed an agreement with the government of Suriname, allowing the former to develop the country's hydro-power and to establish an aluminium factory in the country.

1967 - Suriname produced 5.46 million tons of Bauxite in 1967, 6.85 million tons in 1974, with world production being 44.5 million tons in 1967 and 81.2 million tons in 1974.

1980-89 - Bauxite prices dropped in the 1980s. For Suriname it had provided nearly 60% of export earnings.

April 2002 - A state-owned banana company closes, its financial woes compounded by low market prices. A smaller, restructured company opens in March 2004.

2003 - A gold mining operation owned by a Canadian company began constructing a $97 million mine on a mining concession in Suriname's interior.

October 2008 - Following a dispute with the government over the development of a new bauxite mine in the west of the country, BHP Billiton announces it is to cease operations in Suriname by 2010.

2010 - Satellite analysis of scarred earth and diverted waterways showed that miners have deforested at least 30,000 hectares (74,000 acres) and damaged more than 2,200 km (1,370 miles) of rivers over the past decade.

Bauxite mining continues to be a strong revenue source and accounts for more than 15 per cent of GDP and 70% of export earnings, but the discovery and exploitation of oil and gold has added substantially to Suriname's economic independence. Agriculture, especially of rice and bananas, and shrimp remains a strong component of the economy (about a quarter of the people work in the agricultural sector), and eco tourism is providing new economic opportunities.

More than 80 per cent of Suriname's land-mass consists of unspoiled rain forest, and with the establishment of the Central Suriname Nature Reserve in 1998, Suriname signalled its commitment to conservation of this precious resource. The Central Suriname Nature Reserve became a World Heritage Site in 2000. The Surinamese economy is dependent on commerce, its main trade partners being the Netherlands, the United States, Canada and Caribbean countries.


1948 - Universal suffrage was introduced.

1950 - Political parties emerged in 1950, reflecting the ethnic friction of the population.

25 November 1975 - Suriname becomes independent with Johan Ferrier as president and Henk Arron, of the Suriname National Party (NPS), prime minister; and adopted a new flag; more than a third of the population emigrate to the Netherlands.

1980 - Arron's government ousted in a military coup, but President Ferrier refuses to recognise the military regime and appoints Henk Chin A Sen of the Nationalist Republican Party (PNR) to lead a civilian administration; the army replaces Ferrier with Chin A Sen.

1982 - Armed forces seize power in a coup led by Lieutenant-Colonel Desi Bouterse and set up a Revolutionary People's Front; 15 opposition leaders (politicians, journalists, union leaders, lawyers and soldiers) charged with plotting a coup are executed; Netherlands and US respond by cutting off economic aid.

1985 - Ban on political parties lifted.

1986 - Surinamese Liberation Army (SLA), composed mostly of descendants of escaped African slaves, begins guerrilla war with the aim of restoring constitutional order; within months principal bauxite mines and refineries were forced to shut down.

1986 - 39 people are massacred in the village of Moiwana by the military dictatorship. Bouterse was fighting an armed opposition force called the Jungle Commandos. Many of the rebels were Maroons, as was the group's leader, Ronnie Brunswijk. In 2006 the government officially apologized and compensated relatives and victims of the massacre.

1987 - Bouterse was forced by international pressure to give up power and allow the return of a democratically elected government. Some 97% of electorate approve new civilian constitution.

1988 - Ramsewak Shankar, a former agriculture minister, is elected president.

1989 - Bouterse rejects accord reached by President Shankar with SLA and pledges to continue fighting.

1990 - Shankar ousted in military coup masterminded by Bouterse.

1991 - Johan Kraag (NPS) becomes interim president; alliance of opposition parties - the New Front for Democracy and Development - wins majority of seats in parliamentary elections; Ronald Venetiaan elected president.

1992 - Peace accord reached with SLA.

1993 - Bouterse quit as head of Suriname’s armed forces.

1996 - Jules Wijdenbosch, an ally of Bouterse, is elected president.

1999 - Bouterse, former coup leader in Suriname, was convicted of drug trafficking (smuggled more than two tonnes of cocaine into the Netherlands during 1989-97) in absentia in the Netherlands. Prosecutors said he was the leader of the "Suri Cartel," and was sentenced to 11 years in prison. He avoided that punishment because Suriname does not have an extradition treaty with its former colonial ruler.

2000 - Ronald Venetiaan becomes president, replacing Wijdenbosch, after winning early elections that followed protests against the former government's handling of the economy.

2004 - Ronald Venetiaan is re-elected president.

August 2005 - President Venetiaan is re-elected after months of deadlock. His New Front coalition won a narrow majority in parliamentary elections in May.

July 2006 - Government makes official apology to relatives of at least 39 people killed in 1986 massacre during military dictatorship.

July 2008 - Trial begins of former military ruler Bouterse and 24 others accused of involvement in 1982 massacre of opponents of the military regime. Frequent delays in proceedings follow for the next two years. Bouterse accepts "political responsibility" but denies direct responsibility.

May 2010 - The Mega Combination coalition, led by former military ruler Bouterse, wins 23 out of 51 seats in parliamentary elections to emerge as the largest group.

August 2010 - Desi Bouterse becomes president.

President Desi Bouterse should consider himself the next target for an Obama-authorized coup in Latin America.


1968 - The University of Suriname opened.

1978 - Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela signed the Amazon Pact, a Brazilian initiative designed to coordinate the joint development of the Amazon Basin.

1998 - Four million acres of rain forest was dedicated as the Suriname Wilderness Nature Reserve.

January 2004 - Suriname dollar replaces guilder to restore confidence in economy.

June 2004 - UN sets up tribunal to try to resolve long-running maritime border dispute between Suriname and neighbouring Guyana.

September 2007 - UN tribunal rules in the Guyana-Suriname dispute over maritime territory, giving both a share of a potentially oil-rich offshore basin.

2009 - The annual Goldman Environmental Prize was awarded in part to Wanze Eduards (52) and Hugo Jabini (44) of Suriname, leaders of the maroon community for their efforts that led to a landmark ruling ending tribal exploitation by the government.

December 2009 - Troops are called in to suppress anti-Brazilian and anti-Chinese riots in a gold-mining area in the north-eastern city of Albina.