Karl Ernst Haushofer (27 August 1869 – 10 March 1946) was a German general, geographer and politician. Through his student Rudolf Hess, Haushofer’s ideas influenced the development of Adolf Hitler’s expansionist strategies, although Haushofer denied direct influence on Nazi Germany. Under the Nuremberg Laws, Haushofer’s wife and children were categorized as Mischlinge. His son, Albrecht, was issued a German Blood Certificate through the help of Hess.
Haushofer belonged to a family of artists and scholars. He was born in Munich to Max Haushofer, a well-known professor of economics, politician and author of both academic and literary works, and Adele Haushofer (née Fraas). On his graduation from the Munich Gymnasium (high school), in 1887, Haushofer entered the 1st Field Artillery regiment “Prinzregent Luitpold” of the Bavarian Army and completed Kriegsschule, Artillerieschule and War Academy (Kingdom of Bavaria). In 1896, he married Martha Mayer-Doss (1877–1946) whose father was Jewish. They had two sons, Albrecht Haushofer and Heinz Haushofer (1906–1988). In 1903, he accepted a teaching position at the Bavarian War Academy.
In November 1908, Haushofer was ordered to Tokyo as a military attache to study the Imperial Japanese Army and as a military advisor in artillery instructor. He travelled with his wife via India and South East Asia and arrived in February 1909. He was received by Emperor Meiji and became acquainted with many important people in politics and the armed forces. In autumn 1909, he travelled with his wife for a month to Korea and Manchuria on the occasion of a railway construction. In June 1910, they returned to Germany via Russia and arrived one month later. However, shortly after returning to Bavaria, he began to suffer from a severe lung disease and was given a leave from the army for three years.
During his convalescence, from 1911 to 1913, Haushofer would work on his doctorate of philosophy from Munich University for a thesis on Japan titled Dai Nihon, Betrachtungen über Groß-Japans Wehrkraft, Weltstellung und Zukunft (“Reflections on Greater Japan’s Military Strength, World Position, and Future”). He established himself as one of Germany’s foremost experts regarding the Far East, and co-founded the geopolitical monthly Zeitschrift für Geopolitik (ZfG), which he would co-edit until it was suspended towards the end of World War II.
Haushofer continued his career as a professional soldier after the annexation of Bavaria by Germany, serving in the army of Imperial Germany and returning to teach War History at the Military Academy in Munich.
During World War I, he served as a commanding officer, and commanded a brigade on the western front. He retired with the rank of major general in 1919; however, he became disillusioned after Germany’s loss and severe sanctioning. Around the same time, he forged a friendship with the young Rudolf Hess, who would become his scientific assistant and later the deputy leader of the Nazi Party. Their familiarity formed the basis of the mistaken assumption of an equally close contact between Haushofer and Hitler.
Haushofer entered academia with the aim of restoring and regenerating Germany. Haushofer believed the Germans’ lack of geographical knowledge and geopolitical awareness to be a major cause of Germany’s defeat in World War I, as Germany had found itself with a disadvantageous alignment of allies and enemies. The fields of political and geographical science thus became his areas of specialty. In 1919, Haushofer became Privatdozent for political geography at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and in 1933 professor, although he declined a formal position and salary, as this would have interfered with his military pension.
Haushofer also broadcast monthly radio lectures on the international political situation from 1925 to 1931 and from 1933 to 1939. This Weltpolitischer Monatsbericht made him a household name in contemporary Germany, and he came to be known in circles far removed from academia. He was a founding member of the Deutsche Akademie, of which he served as president from 1934 to 1937. He was a prolific writer, publishing hundreds of articles, reviews, commentaries, obituaries and books, many of which were on Asian topics, and he arranged for many leaders in the Nazi party and in the German military to receive copies of his works.
Louis Pauwels, in his book Monsieur Gurdjieff, describes Haushofer as a former student of George Gurdjieff. Others, including Pauwels, said that Haushofer created a Vril society and that he was a secret member of the Thule Society. Stefan Zweig speaks warmly of him  but says history will have to judge how far he knowingly contributed to Nazi doctrine, as more documentation becomes available. Zweig credits him with the concept of Lebensraum, used in a psychological sense of a nation’s relative energies.
After the establishment of the Nazis, Haushofer remained friendly with Hess, who protected Haushofer and his wife from the racial laws of the Nazis which deemed her a “half-Jew”. During the prewar years, Haushofer was instrumental in linking Japan to the Axis powers, acting in accordance with the theories of his book Geopolitics of the Pacific Ocean.
After the July 20 Plot to assassinate Hitler, Haushofer’s son Albrecht (1903–1945) went into hiding but was arrested on 7 December 1944 and put into the Moabit prison in Berlin. During the night of 22–23 April 1945, he and other prisoners, such as Klaus Bonhoeffer, were walked out of the prison by an SS-squad and shot. Beginning on 24 September 1945, Karl Haushofer was informally interrogated by Father Edmund A. Walsh on behalf of the Allied forces to determine whether he should stand trial for war crimes; Walsh determined that he had not committed any.
On the night of 10–11 March 1946, Karl Haushofer and his wife committed suicide in a secluded hollow on their Hartschimmelhof estate at Pähl/Ammersee. Both drank arsenic and his wife then hanged herself
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