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Karl-Otto Saur (February 16, 1902 in Düsseldorf – July 28, 1966 in Pullach) was State Secretary in the Reich Ministry for armaments and war production in Germany during the Nazi era and de jure last defence minister of the Third Reich.
Saur was an engineer by profession. After graduation, he joined Thyssen, then took over the running of the family engineering firm in Freiburg after the death of his father. This business went into bankruptcy in 1928 on the threshold of the Great Depression. Saur went back to Thyssen in 1929 and was director of the August Thyssen-Hütte. He was a member of the NSDAP from 1931. He joined the National Socialist Guild of German Engineers and the Todt Organization where he rose to be the right-hand man to Fritz Todt.
Following Todt's death in a 1942 plane crash, Saur became official deputy to the new armaments minister Albert Speer. Saur was seen as particularly ruthless in the enforcement of military targets, was involved in all aspects of increasing production including orders that regulated the flow of forced labour towards the end of World War II. In 1945 he was duly awarded the Knights Cross of the War Merit Cross in Gold (without swords) (Kriegsverdienstkreuz), a successor to the non-combatant Iron Cross, which was only awarded twice. Some sources state that this award was only suggested and not finalised due to confusion and the end of the war.
In his political testament, Adolf Hitler named Karl-Otto Saur as the new defence minister (Minister of Munitions (Rüstung)) and successor to Albert Speer after the latter's fall from favour for his role in preventing Hitler's scorched-earth policy. After Hitler's death, Karl Dönitz continued with Saur but also allowed Speer to return to office. From May 1945 Saur was in American captivity. In 1948 he became a witness for the prosecution at the Nuremberg Krupp trials - the Americans offered him immunity from prosecution for war crimes if he turned in state evidence, as they wanted a trial to demonstrate the collective guilt of German industry. For this he was viewed as a traitor by industry and was socially isolated. During denazification he was allowed to be classified as "fellow traveller" and was released shortly afterwards.
Saur founded an engineering consultancy in 1949, and also became a small publishing house. The resulting company Saur Verlag only became economically successful from the beginning of the 60s under his son Klaus Gerhard Saur.
- For Führer and Fatherland: Military Awards of the Third Reich, by John R. Angolia. ISBN 0-912138-14-9
- Inside the Third Reich: Memoirs by Albert Speer, by Albert Speer.