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Looking back at:

Emil Sauer -
Diplomat and Adventurer

By Michael Barr
Michael Barr
Emil Sauer, a gracious and scholarly American diplomat, was also a world traveler and adventurer who explored exotic places. He was part Henry Kissinger and part Indiana Jones.

Emil Sauer was born June 10, 1881 on a farm 3 miles east of Stonewall, Texas. His parents, Johann Friedrich and Christine (Strackbein) Sauer, came to the Hill Country from Germany in the mid-1800s. Today their home is part of the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm at Lyndon B. Johnson State Park.

Sauer attended grade school in Stonewall. At age 13 his parents sent him to town for more schooling and religious training. He enrolled in Fredericksburg High School. He was confirmed at Holy Ghost Lutheran Church in 1895.

At age 16 Emil Sauer took a state examination and earned a teacher's certificate. He taught at Meusebach School for 2 years.

In 1900 he enrolled in the University of Texas at Austin, earning a bachelor's degree in literature in just 3 years.

He spent a year as the principal in Selma, north of San Antonio and 2 years as superintendent in Fredericksburg.

In September 1907 Sauer enrolled in Harvard University to study mathematics, history, economics and politics. His interest in the social sciences may have come from his parents dinner table reflections of their journey to the Texas Hill Country and from stories of his grandfather and great uncle who marched to Moscow in the snow with Napoleon.

Emil Sauer studied about the world, but he wanted more. He wanted to experience it.

In 1910 he was one of 19 young men who passed a Civil Service examination qualifying him for a job in the United States consular service.
Emil Sauer, diplomat & adventurer
Emil Sauer
Fredericksburg Standard

Baghdad was his first assignment. Just getting there in the days before commercial air travel was the adventure of a lifetime.

On a fall morning he sailed from Philadelphia to Hamburg, Germany; then rode the train to Trieste, Italy. An Italian steamer carried him across the balmy Mediterranean, through the Suez Canal, down the Red Sea and across the Indian Ocean to Bombay, India.

From Bombay he traveled to Karachi where he boarded an English mail steamer plying the Persian Gulf. His 10,000 mile sea voyage ended in Khorramshahr.

One day after landing in Khorramshahr, he reached Basra. Seven days later, on December 25, 1911, he arrived in Baghdad after an arduous 150 mile trip against the current on a churning Tigris River paddle wheeler.

Like Lawrence of Arabia, Emil Sauer was fascinated by the culture of the desert people. He traveled all over the region riding out sandstorms and dodging hostile Bedouins.

He visited Babylon and the ancient palace of Nebuchadnezzar. He stood on the spot where Alexander the Great died. He strolled through a peaceful unpretentious date orchard at the fork of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers that according to his guide was once the Garden of Eden.

On another trip Sauer traveled overland to Aleppo; then south by train to Damascus. In Beirut he boarded a steamer to Constantinople with stops in Cyprus and Smyrna. He traveled the full length of the Dardanelles.

On the return trip he explored ancient Athens, roamed Rome, navigated Naples and peered over the rim into the crater of Mt. Vesuvius.

Emil Sauer rose rapidly in the consular service. After Baghdad he served in Gothenburg, Sweden; Cologne, Germany; Maracaibo, Venezuela; Cologne, Germany (again); Quebec City and Toronto, Canada; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Frankfurt, Germany.

At the start of World War I the British government recalled its consul from Germany. For a time Emil Sauer was in charge of bother American and British consul activities.

In his 10 years in Canada he served as consul, supervisor of consulates and dean of the consular corps. He became consul general in 1923.

At his last post in Frankfurt, Germany, he endured 44 nights of air raids in the early years of World War II.

Emil Sauer retired in 1941 after 30 years of service to his country.

He traveled the world at a time when getting there was part of the adventure. He experienced thrills the rest of us only read about.

Michael Barr
"Hindsights" November 1, 2019 Column

"Retired Consul Emil Sauer Was Early School Teacher in Gillespie County," Fredericksburg Standard, May 1, 1946.
"Emil Sauer, Retired U. S. Consul General, Began Life On Gillespie Farm, Secured Education In Local School," Fredericksburg Standard, December 10, 1942.
"Sauer Now Located in Washington, D. C.," Fredericksburg Standard, March 6, 1941.
"Emil Sauer Now In Brazil," Fredericksburg Standard, July 23, 1926.
"Consul Emil Sauer," Fredericksburg Standard, October 2, 1926.
"Emil Sauer Rose to Top Post As U. S. Diplomat," Fredericksburg Standard, August 26, 1970.
"Retire Consul Emil Sauer Was Active In Service Of Country, Starting His Consular Work In Baghdad," Fredericksburg Standard, December 17, 1942.

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