Denis, Albertus

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DENIS, ALBERTUS (also known as Alavaro Diniz and to his coreligionists as Samuel Yahya ; c. 1580–c. 1645), court agent and mintmaster, one of the first members of the Portuguese Jewish community in Hamburg. In 1611, together with Andreas Falleiro and Ruy Fernando Cardoso, Denis purchased the Altona cemetery for the Portuguese Jews of Hamburg (the bill of sale was countersigned by him on May 31, 1611). A year later he was officially granted the right of residence in Hamburg; in the city register of 1614 he is listed as the donor of "Twintig marck luebsch" to the *Glueckstadt church. Denis acted as agent and mintmaster for Count Ernst of Schauenburg, and as such he incurred the enmity of the Hamburg authorities, who accused him of buying Reichsthaler coins minted in Hamburg and having them melted down in Altona. When the senate issued an order for his arrest, Denis took refuge in Altona and settled there under the protection of the count. In 1618 King Christian iv of Denmark put him in charge of the Glueckstadt mint, but it operated subsequently for only a few years. In Glueckstadt Denis also built and owned two houses and helped to introduce other Jews (see *Denmark). He remained a member of the Portuguese community of Hamburg; as their representative, he applied in 1637 to Count Otto of Schauenburg for a further extension of the cemetery privilege. Denis' minting activities contributed to the first "Kipper und Wipper" period of galloping inflation caused by corruption of the coinage.

With the stabilization of finances, Denis became a large-scale sugar importer and an exporter of grain through the ports of Luebeck and Danzig, where he tried to gain a foothold for his agents – often his relatives. In 1625 he obtained the right of settlement for Portuguese Jews in Troppau and Jaegerndorf in Silesia. In the 1630s he organized a news and information service for his Danish royal benefactor. His last activity was negotiating the 1643/4 settlement between Hamburg and Denmark, and he died in poverty soon after.


H. Kellenbenz, Sephardim an der unteren Elbe (1958), index.

[Joseph Elijah Heller]