Haushofer commanded a reserve division during World War I, attaining the rank of major general. After the armistice. he resigned from the army, and in 1921 he became a professor of geography at the University of Munich. Within two years, he had established the Institute for Geopolitics, which published several internationally respected journals.
In 1924, Rudolf Hess, one of Haushofer's former students, convinced him to visit Adolf Hitler, who was serving a prison term in Landsberg Fortress for his leadership of the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch. Throughout the summer and fall, Haushofer visited Hitler repeatedly, educating him in the nuances of geopolitics. Hitler directly incorporated these ideas into his book Mein Kampf, especially the notion that Germany needed to acquire lebensraum (living space) to ensure its national survival. With Hitler's rise to power, however, professional geographers at the Institute for Geopolitics were replaced by political hacks, and its scientific journals were transformed into mere mouthpieces for Nazi propaganda. Haushofer became increasingly disenchanted as his discipline was intellectually hijacked by Hitler. The final break occurred in 1941, when Hitler ordered an invasion of the Soviet Union before Britain was defeated, violating Haushofer's sternest admonition against fighting a two-front war.
As the war turned against Germany, Haushofer's son Albrecht became involved with the secret resistance movement against Hitler. When the 20 July 1944 assassination attempt failed to kill the Führer, the Gestapo executed Albrecht and sent most of the Haushofer family to the Dachau concentration camp. Grief-stricken over the loss of their son, guilt-ridden for his role in causing Germany's destruction, and fearing punishment in a war crimes trial, Haushofer and his wife committed suicide at Hartschimmelhof, Bavaria, on 10 March 1946.
John P. Vanzo
Busteed, M. A. Developments in Political Geography. New York: Academic Press, 1983.; Dorpalen, Andreas. The World of General Haushofer. New York: Kennikat Press, 1942, 1966.; Hipler, Bruno. Hitlers Lehrmeister: Karl Haushofer als Vater der NS-Ideologie. St. Ottilien: EOS Verlag, 1996.; Murphy, David Thomas. The Heroic Earth: Geopolitical Thought in Weimar Germany, 1918–1933. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1997.