Hark Olufs

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Hark Olufs
Hark Olufs Grabstein.jpg
Hark Olufs' tombstone in the cemetery of Nebel
Born 17 or (1708-07-19)19 July 1708
Nebel, Amrum, Denmark. Now part of Germany.
Died October 13, 1754(1754-10-13) (aged 46)
Süddorf, Amrum
Resting place Nebel
54°39′11″N 8°21′21″E / 54.6530°N 8.3558°E / 54.6530; 8.3558
Citizenship Danish
Occupation Sailor, treasurer, military commander
Known for Returning from Algerian slavery as a wealthy man
Notable work Autobiography
Military career
Allegiance Ottoman flag alternative 2.svg Ottoman Empire
Service/branch Life guards, later cavalry
Years of service ca. 1728–1735
Rank Agha ed-Deira (Commander in Chief)
Battles/wars Conquest of Tunis (1735)

Hark Olufs (July 17 or 19, 1708, Nebel – October 13, 1754) was a North Frisian sailor. He was captured by Algerian pirates and sold into slavery but by successfully serving the Bey of Constantine he could eventually achieve his release.


Hark Olufs was born as son of a nautical captain named Oluf Jensen on either July 17 or 19 in 1708 on the North Frisian island of Amrum, which then belonged to Denmark. In 1721 he became a seaman on the Hoffnung, one of his father's vessels.

In 1724, on a voyage from Nantes to Hamburg, his ship was seized by Algerian pirates, he and his two cousins were taken hostages. Olufs' family could not afford the high sum which was demanded in ransom by the Barbary slave traders for his release. Also, as the ship had been sailing under Hamburg colours, the family's request for a loan from the slavery fund of the Danish Kingdom was rejected.

Subsequently, Olufs was sold as a slave on Algiers' slave market. From 1724 to 1727/28 he was a servant of the Bey of Constantine and advanced to become the Bey's treasurer. Between 1728 and 1732 he was made Commander of the Life Guards. In 1732 he became Agha ed-Deira, Commander in Chief of the local cavalry. He took part in the conquest of Tunis by the Algerian army in 1735 and as a reward he was released on October 31, 1735, and was allowed to return to Amrum. In 1747 he published an autobiography in Danish, which was translated into German in 1751. Hark Olufs died on October 13, 1754, in Süddorf on Amrum. His headstone is still visible in the graveyard of Nebel.


Hark Oluf's life has been treated in a biographical novel in 2010:

  • Weinbörner, Udo (2010). Der General des Bay. Das abenteuerliche Leben des Amrumer Schiffsjungen Hark Olufs (in German). Bad Honnef: Horlemann. ISBN 978-3-89502-299-9. 

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