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Karl Haushofer

General Karl Haushofer and Rudolf Hess, c.1920

Karl Ernst Haushofer (27 August 1869 – 10 March 1946) was a German general, geographer and geopolitician. Through his student Rudolf Hess, Haushofer's ideas influenced the development of Adolf Hitler's expansionist strategies, although Haushofer denied direct influence on the Nazi regime. 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.


  • Life and career 1
  • Geopolitik 2
  • Contacts with Nazi leadership 3
  • Works 4
  • In popular culture 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Life and career

Haushofer belonged to a family of artists and scholars. He was born in Munich, Germany, to Max Haushofer, a professor of economics, and Frau Adele Haushofer (née Fraas). On his graduation from the Munich Gymnasium (high school), Haushofer contemplated an academic career. However, service with the Bavarian army proved so interesting that he stayed to work, with great success, as an instructor in military academies and on the general staff.

In 1887, Haushofer entered the 1st Field Artillery regiment "Prinzregent Luitpold" 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).

Haushofer continued his career as a professional soldier, serving in the army of Imperial Germany, and rising through the Staff Corp by 1899. In 1903, he began teaching at the Bavarian War Academy.

In November 1908 the army sent him to Tokyo to study the Japanese army and to advise it as an artillery instructor. He travelled with his wife via India and South East Asia and arrived in February 1909. Haushofer was received by the Japanese emperor and became acquainted with many important people in politics and 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.

Shortly afterwards he began to suffer from several severe diseases and was given a leave from the army for three years. From 1911 to 1913, Haushofer would work on his Rudolf Hess who would become his scientific assistant.

Haushofer entered academia with the aim of restoring and regenerating Germany. Haushofer believed the Germans' lack of geographical knowledge and geopolitical awareness was 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 Munich University and in 1933 professor.

Vril society; and that he was a secret member of the Thule Society.[1] Stefan Zweig speaks warmly of him [2] 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, though used in a psychological sense of a nation's relative energies.

After the establishment of the Nazi regime, Haushofer remained friendly with Rudolf Hess, who protected Haushofer and his wife from the racial laws of the Nazis, which deemed her a "half-Jew". During the pre-war 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 22, 1945, he and other selected prisoners, such as Klaus Bonhoeffer. were walked out of the prison by an SS-squad and shot. Beginning on 24 September 24, 1945, Karl Haushofer was informally interrogated by Father Edmund A. Walsh on behalf of the Allied forces to determine whether he should stand trial at Nuremberg for war crimes; Walsh deteremined that he had not committed any.

On the night of 10–11 March 1946, he 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 while Haushofer was obviously too weak to do so.[3][4]


Haushofer developed Geopolitik from widely varied sources, including the writings of Oswald Spengler, Alexander Humboldt, Karl Ritter, Friedrich Ratzel, Rudolf Kjellén, and Halford J. Mackinder.[5]

Geopolitik contributed to Nazi foreign policy chiefly in the strategy and justifications for lebensraum. The theories contributed five ideas to German foreign policy in the interwar period:

Geostrategy as a political science is both descriptive and analytical like Political Geography, but adds a normative element in its strategic prescriptions for national policy.[6] While some of Haushofer's ideas stem from earlier American and British geostrategy, German geopolitik adopted an essentialist outlook toward the national interest, oversimplifying issues and representing itself as a panacea.[7] As a new and essentialist ideology, geopolitik found itself in a position to prey upon the post-World War I insecurity of the populace.[8]

Haushofer's position in the University of Munich served as a platform for the spread of his geopolitical ideas, magazine articles, and books. In 1922, he founded the Institute of Geopolitics in Munich, from which he proceeded to publicize geopolitical ideas. By 1924, as the leader of the German geopolitik school of thought, Haushofer would establish the Zeitschrift für Geopolitik monthly devoted to geopolitik. His ideas would reach a wider audience with the publication of Volk ohne Raum by Hans Grimm in 1926, popularizing his concept of lebensraum.[9] Haushofer exercised influence both through his academic teachings, urging his students to think in terms of continents and emphasizing motion in international politics, and through his political activities.[10] While Hitler's speeches would attract the masses, Haushofer's works served to bring the remaining intellectuals into the fold.[11]

Geopolitik was in essence a consolidation and codification of older ideas, given a scientific gloss:

  • Lebensraum was a revised colonial imperialism;
  • Autarky a new expression of tariff protectionism;
  • Strategic control of key geographic territories exhibiting the same thought behind earlier designs on the Suez and Panama canals; i.e., a view of controlling the land in the same way as those choke points control the sea
  • Pan-regions (Panideen) based upon the British Empire, and the American Monroe Doctrine, Pan-American Union and hemispheric defense,[12] whereby the world is divided into spheres of influence.
  • Frontiers – His view of barriers between peoples not being political (i.e., borders) nor natural placements of races or ethnicities but as being fluid and determined by the will or needs of ethnic/racial groups.

The key reorientation in each dyad is that the focus is on land-based empire rather than naval imperialism.

Ostensibly based upon the geopolitical theory of

  • Deutsches Historisches Museum: Biography of Karl Haushofer (German)
  • Encyclopædia Britannica entry
  • The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition entry on Karl Haushofer
  • , by Wiederfield and Nicolsa, Haushofer entryWho's Who in Nazi Germany at the Wayback Machine (archived May 12, 2005)
  • Geopolitics, the United States, the Eurasian Continental Bloc, and China by Bertil Haggman
  • "The Last Days of World War II – Last Secrets of the Axis" – An online documentary by History Channel about Karl Haushofer and his role on Eurasia alliance
  • Japan und die Japaner - eine Landes und Volkskunde (1933) at The Internet Archive

External links

  • Coogan, Kevin, Dreamer of the Day: Francis Parker Yockey and the postwar fascist international (Brooklyn, NY: Autonomedia, 1998) ISBN 1-57027-039-2
  • Heske, Henning, "Karl Haushofer: his role in German politics and in Nazi politics," Political Geography 6 (1987), pp. 135–144.
  • Murphy, David Thomas, The Heroic Earth: Geopolitical Thought in Weimar Germany, 1918–1933 (Kent, Oh.: Kent State University Press, 1997)
  • Rees, Philip (ed.), Biographical Dictionary of the Extreme Right Since 1890, 1991, ISBN 0-13-089301-3
  • Spang, Christian W., "Karl Haushofer Re-examined – Geopolitics as a Factor within Japanese-German Rapprochement in the Inter-War Years?" C. W. Spang, R.-H. Wippich (eds.), Japanese-German Relations, 1895–1945. War, Diplomacy and Public Opinion. (Routledge, London/New York: 2006) pp. 139–157.
  • Spang, Christian W., Karl Haushofer und Japan. Die Rezeption seiner geopolitischen Theorien in der deutschen und japanischen Politik, Munich: Iudicium, 2013. ISBN 978-3-86205-040-6.

Further reading

  • Dorpalen, Andreas.The World of General Haushofer: Geopolitics in Action (New York: Farrar & Rinehart, 1942) ISBN 0-8046-0112-7
  • Jacobsen, Hans-Adolf. Karl Haushofer: Leben und Werk. 2 vols. (= Schriften des Bundesarchivs 24) Harald Boldt Verlag, Boppard 1979.
  • Mattern, Johannes, Geopolitik: Doctrine of National Self-Sufficiency and Empire, The Johns Hopkins Press, Baltimore: 1942
  • Ravenscroft, Trevor. "The Spear of Destiny" Weiser Books, London: 1983
  • Walsh, Edmund A. Total Power: A Footnote to History. Doubleday & Company, Inc., Garden City, New York: 1949


  1. ^ Pauwels, Louis and Bergier, Jacques. The Morning of the Magicians. Avon Books, 1973
  2. ^ Zweig, Stefan. The World of Yesterday New York: Viking, 1943
  3. ^
  4. ^ Walsh, Edmund A. "The Mystery of Haushofer" Life (September 16, 1946) pp. 107–120
  5. ^
  6. ^ Mattern, pp. 40–41.
  7. ^ a b c Walsh (1949), p. 41.
  8. ^ a b Mattern, p. 32.
  9. ^ Dorpalen, pp. 16–17.
  10. ^ Walsh (1949), pp. 4–5.
  11. ^ a b Beukema, Col. Herman. "Introduction" to Dorpalen, p. xiii.
  12. ^ Mattern, p. 37.
  13. ^ Walsh (1949), p. 39.
  14. ^ Mattern, p. 60.
  15. ^ Dorpalen, pp. 66–67.
  16. ^ Dorpalen, p. 52.
  17. ^ Dorpalen, pp. 68–69.
  18. ^ Dorpalen, pp. 23–24.
  19. ^ Dorpalen, p. 54.
  20. ^ Walsh (1949), p. 48.
  21. ^ Dorpalen, p. 80.
  22. ^ Dorpalen, p. 78.
  23. ^ Dorpalen, pp. 38–39.
  24. ^ Dorpalen, pp. 94–95.
  25. ^ Dorpalen, pp. 205–206.
  26. ^ Dorpalen, pp. 207, 209.
  27. ^ Dorpalen, 231.
  28. ^ Mattern, p. 17.
  29. ^ Mattern, p. 39.
  30. ^ Dorpalen, 235-6.
  31. ^ Dorpalen, p. 218.
  32. ^ Mackinder, p. 78.
  33. ^ Walsh (1949), p. 9.
  34. ^ Walsh (1949), pp. 14–15.
  35. ^ Kershaw, Ian Hitler: 1889-1936: Hubris New York: Norton, 1998. pp.248-249. ISBN 0-393-04671-0
  36. ^ Fest, Joachim C. and Winston, Richard and Winston, Clara (trans.) Hitler. New York: Vantage, 1975. (orig. published in German in 1973), p.217. ISBN 0-394-72023-7
  37. ^ Walsh (1949), p. 15.
  38. ^ Walsh (1949), p. 8.
  39. ^ Walsh (1949), pp. 35–36.
  40. ^ Walsh (1949), pp. 41, 17.
  41. ^ Walsh (1949), p. 36.
  42. ^ Walsh (1949), p. 42.
  43. ^ Mattern, p. 20.
  44. ^ Walsh (1949), pp. 40, 35.
  45. ^ Walsh (1949), p. 16.
  46. ^ for example:
    • Berzin, Alexander. "The Nazi Connection with Shambhala and Tibet" (May 2003)
    • FitzGerald, Michael. Storm Troopers of Satan (Robert Hale, 1990)
    • FitzGerald, Michael. Adolf Hitler: A Portrait (Spellmount, 2006)
    • Sklar, Dusty. The Nazis and the Occult (Dorset Press, 1977)
    • Webb, James. The Occult Establishment (Richard Drew, 1981)
  47. ^ Aramata, Hiroshi. Teito Monogatari pp. 183–193



See also

In popular culture

  • English Translation and Analysis of Major General Karl Ernst Haushofer's Geopolitics of the Pacific Ocean: Studies on the Relationship between Geography and History ISBN 0-7734-7122-7
  • Das Japanische Reich in seiner geographischen Entwicklung (L.W. Seidel & sohn, 1921 Wien)
  • Geopolitik des Pazifischen Ozeans. (1925)
  • Bausteine zur Geopolitik. (1928)
  • Weltpolitik von heute. (Zeitgeschichte-Verlag Wilhelm Undermann, 1934)
  • Napoleon I., Lübeck : Coleman, 1935
  • Kitchener, Lübeck : Coleman, 1935
  • Foch, Lübeck : Coleman, 1935
  • Weltmeere und Weltmächte, Berlin : Zeitgeschichte Verlag, 1937
  • Deutsche Kulturpolitik im indopazifischen Raum, Hamburg : Hoffmann u. Campe, 1939
  • Grenzen in ihrer geographischen und politischen Bedeutung, Heidelberg ; Berlin ; Magdeburg : Vowinckel, 1939
  • Wehr-Geopolitik : Geogr. Grundlagen e. Wehrkunde, Berlin : Junker u. Dünnhaupt, 1941
  • Japan baut sein Reich, Berlin : Zeitgeschichte-Verlag Wilhelm Undermann, 1941
  • Das Werden des deutschen Volkes : Von d. Vielfalt d. Stämme zur Einheit d. Nation, Berlin : Propyläen-Verl., 1941
  • Der Kontinentalblock : Mitteleuropa, Eurasien, Japan, Berlin : Eher, 1941
  • Das Reich : Großdeutsches Werder im Abendland, Berlin : Habel, 1943
  • Geopolitische Grundlagen, Verleger Berlin ; Wien : Industrieverl. Spaeth & Linde, 1939.
  • De la géopolitique, Paris: Fayard, 1986.


The influence of Haushofer on Nazi ideology is dramatized in the 1943 short documentary film, Plan for Destruction. The film was nominated for an Academy Award.

The idea of contact between Haushofer and the Nazi establishment has been stressed by several authors.[46] These authors have expanded Haushofer's contact with Hitler to a close collaboration while Hitler was writing Mein Kampf and made him one of the 'future Chancellor's many mentors'. Haushofer may have been a short-term student of Gurdjieff, that he had studied Zen Buddhism, and that he had been initiated at the hands of Tibetan lamas, although these notions are debated.

Haushofer was never a member of the Nazi Party, and did voice disagreements with the party, leading to his brief imprisonment. Haushofer came under suspicion because of his contacts with left wing socialist figures within the Nazi movement (led by Gregor Strasser) and his advocacy of essentially a German–Russian alliance. This Nazi left wing had some connections to the Communist Party of Germany and some of its leaders, especially those who were influenced by the National Bolshevist philosophy of a German–Russian revolutionary alliance, as advocated by Ernst Niekisch, Julius Evola, Ernst Jünger, Hielscher and other figures of the "conservative revolution." He did profess loyalty to the Führer and make anti-Semitic remarks on occasion. However, his emphasis was always on space over race, believing in environmental rather than racial determinism.[43] He refused to associate himself with anti-Semitism as a policy, especially because his wife was half-Jewish.[44] Haushofer admits that after 1933 much of what he wrote was distorted under duress: his wife had to be protected by Hess's influence (who managed to have her awarded 'honorary German' status); his son was implicated in the July 20 plot to assassinate Hitler and was executed by the Gestapo; he himself was imprisoned in Dachau concentration camp for eight months; and his son and grandson were imprisoned for two-and-a-half months.[45]

Haushofer also denied assisting Hitler in writing Mein Kampf, saying that he only knew of it once it was in print, and never read it.[41] Walsh found that even if Haushofer did not directly assist Hitler, discernible new elements appeared in Mein Kampf, as compared to previous speeches made by Hitler. Geopolitical ideas of lebensraum, space for depth of defense, appeals for natural frontiers, balancing land and seapower, and geographic analysis of military strategy entered Hitler's thought between his imprisonment and publishing of Mein Kampf.[7] Chapter XIV, on German policy in Eastern Europe, in particular displays the influence of the materials Haushofer brought Hitler and Hess while they were imprisoned.[42]

Father allied victory in preparation for the Nuremberg trials, disagreed with Haushofer's assessment that geopolitik was terribly distorted by Hitler and the Nazis.[7] He cites Hitler's speeches declaring that small states have no right to exist, and the Nazi use of Haushofer's maps, language and arguments. Even if distorted somewhat, Walsh felt that was enough to implicate Haushofer's geopolitik.[40]

Although Haushofer accompanied Hess on numerous Konstantin von Neurath, Nazi Minister of Foreign Affairs, were the only officials Haushofer would admit had a proper understanding of geopolitik.[39]

Rudolf Hess, Hitler's secretary who would assist in the writing of Mein Kampf, was a close student of Haushofer's. While Hess and Hitler were imprisoned after the Munich Beer Hall Putsch in 1923, Haushofer spent six hours visiting the two, bringing along a copy of Friedrich Ratzel's Political Geography and Clausewitz's On War.[34] After World War II, Haushofer would deny that he had taught Hitler, and claimed that the National Socialist Party perverted Hess's study of geopolitik. Hitler's biographers disagree somewhat on the extent of Haushofer's influence on Hitler: Ian Kershaw writes that "[his] influence was probably greater than the Munich professor was later prepared to acknowledge,"[35] while Joachim C. Fest says that "Hitler's version of [Haushofer's] ideas was distinctly his own."[36] Haushofer himself viewed Hitler as a half-educated man who never correctly understood the principles of geopolitik passed onto him by Hess, and Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop as the principal distorter of geopolitik in Hitler's mind.[37]

Evidence points to a disconnect between geopoliticians and the Nazi leadership, although their practical tactical goals were nearly indistinguishable.[11]

Contacts with Nazi leadership

Beyond being an economic concept, pan-regions were a strategic concept as well. Haushofer acknowledges the strategic concept of the Heartland put forward by the British geopolitician Halford Mackinder.[31] If Germany could control Eastern Europe and subsequently Russian territory, it could control a strategic area to which hostile seapower could be denied.[32] Allying with Italy and Japan would further augment German strategic control of Eurasia, with those states becoming the naval arms protecting Germany's insular position.[33]

Haushofer and the Munich school of geopolitik would eventually expand their conception of lebensraum and autarky well past the borders of 1914 and "a place in the sun" to a New European Order, then to a New Afro-European Order, and eventually to a Eurasian Order.[28] This concept became known as a pan-region, taken from the American Monroe Doctrine, and the idea of national and continental self-sufficiency.[29] This was a forward-looking refashioning of the drive for colonies, something that geopoliticians did not see as an economic necessity, but more as a matter of prestige, and putting pressure on older colonial powers. The fundamental motivating force would not be economic, but cultural and spiritual.[30] Haushofer was, what is called today, a proponent of "Eurasianism", advocating a policy of German–Russian hegemony and alliance to offset an Anglo-American power structure's potentially dominating influence in Europe.

Haushofer's version of autarky was based on the quasi-Malthusian idea that the earth would become saturated with people and no longer able to provide food for all. There would essentially be no increases in productivity.[27]

To Haushofer, the existence of a state depended on living space, the pursuit of which must serve as the basis for all policies. Germany had a high Belgium, the Netherlands, Portugal, Denmark, Switzerland, Greece and the "mutilated alliance" of Austro-Hungary as supporting his assertion.[26]

Haushofer defined geopolitik in 1935 as "the duty to safeguard the right to the soil, to the land in the widest sense, not only the land within the frontiers of the Reich, but the right to the more extensive Volk and cultural lands."[20] Culture itself was seen as the most conducive element to dynamic special expansion. It provided a guide as to the best areas for expansion, and could make expansion safe, whereas projected military or commercial power could not.[21] Haushofer even held that urbanization was a symptom of a nation's decline, evidencing a decreasing soil mastery, birthrate and effectiveness of centralized rule.[22]

Haushofer's geopolitik expands upon that of Ratzel and Kjellén. While the latter two conceive of geopolitik as the state as an organism in space put to the service of a leader, Haushofer's Munich school specifically studies geography as it relates to war and designs for empire.[18] The behavioral rules of previous geopoliticians were thus turned into dynamic normative doctrines for action on lebensraum and world power.[19]

Ratzel's writings coincided with the growth of German industrialism after the Franco-Prussian war and the subsequent search for markets that brought it into competition with Britain. His writings served as welcome justification for imperial expansion.[14] Influenced by Mahan, Ratzel wrote of aspirations for German naval reach, agreeing that sea power was self-sustaining, as the profit from trade would pay for the merchant marine, unlike land power.[15] Haushofer was exposed to Ratzel, who was friends with Haushofer's father, a teacher of economic geography,[16] and would integrate Ratzel's ideas on the division between sea and land powers into his theories, saying that only a country with both could overcome this conflict.[17]


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