View Full Version : Karl Haushofer (ᛉ1869 – ᛣ1946): The Father of Geopolitics

Monday, May 23rd, 2005, 11:36 PM
by Radbod

Karl Haushofer was born on August 27, 1869 in Munich. He chose a career as a professional soldier, and his intellectual gifts and meticulous attention to detail quickly allowed him to get an appointment to the Staff Corps. Haushofer had been a general in World War I. Retiring from the army in 1919 with the rank of major general, he dedicated himself to the regeneration of Germany and turned to academic life.

Haushofer thought that a major cause of Germany’s defeat in World War 1 was the lack of geographical knowledge and geopolitical awareness. Because of this lack, Germany found itself in that war with its particular alignment of allies and enemies, and this brought its defeat. In order to correct this lack he engaged in the fields of political and geographical science.

It was not until the age of forty-five that he obtained his doctorate with a brilliant thesis on Political Geography. He continued developing the ideas expressed on his dissertation, until developing a doctrine he called Geopolitik, i.e. geopolitics, as a policy for Germany and Europe combining the theories of Ratzel, Kjellén and Mackinder. The Swedish Professor Rudolf Kjellen (1864 - 1922) was first to use the term geopolitics (in Swedish *geopolitik*) and he can be regarded as the founder of the science of geopolitics. Kjellen was a very innovative thinker, playing with cultural and social factors in his approach to geopolitics. The German geographer Frederick Ratzell developed organismic theories, comparing the the state to a biological organism. Ratzel's influence on modern geography is legendary. Robert E. Dickinson writes about Ratzel: "There is no doubt that Friedrich Ratzel has been the greatest single contributor to the development of the Geography of Man." (Robert E. Dickinson, The Makers of Modern Geography. New York: Friederich A. Praeger, 1969. p.64.) Halford John Mackinder took Ratzel's metaphor literally and viewed the state as an actual organism with a natural right to growth and to Lebensraum ("living space"). He put forth the theory of a European "heartland central to world domination.

With the theory of geopolitics Haushofer became one of the most influential and innovative German geographers. In 1922 he founded the Institute of Geopolitics in Munich, from which he proceeded to publicize geopolitical ideas. Haushofer founded and edited the journal Zeitschrift für Geopolitik in 1924.

Among Haushofer's favorite students at Munich university was a young, bright army officer: Rudolf Hess, one of the first memers of the National Socialist Party, who later became one of the closest associates of Hitler when serving time with Hitler in Landsberg Fortress prison after his failed Munich putsch in 1923. Hess was a sensible man who loved music and read Hölderlin. It is a well known fact that it was Rudolf Hess who introduced Haushofer to Adolf Hitler, and also that the professor visited Hess and Hitler for several times in Landsberg, who was then writing Mein Kampf. Thus, Haushofer came to be seen later in the 1930s and during the war, as providing the geopolitical ideas for the Nazis, but his influence was greatly exaggerated. If anything, Professor Haushofer was, what we call today, a "Eurasist" who advocated a policy of German - Russian hegemony and alliance to offset the Anglo - American power structure's dominating influence in Europe.

Much has been said, in holding him responsible for Nazi Germany's fatal eastern expansionist plans and policies of German "Lebensraum" in Russia etc. But, this is completely untrue. He never advocated for Germany to take over Russia and use her for German territorial needs as "Lebensraum." Haushofer saw geopolitics as being applied geography and felt that densely populated countries like Germany should be allowed and entitled to expand. He thus stressed Germany's need to join forces with Russia but did not mean agression. This concept, known as Lebensraum (living space) was actually developed by Ratzel, who is often called the founder of political geography. Haushofer did publicise the concept of lebensraum, but that term was used by many others, including the Volkisch fanatics and racists who were much more directly connected to the Nazis. And it is this point, more than anything else, which got him into trouble with the ruling elite of National Socialism. When Hitler sided with the aristocracy and the right wing of the Wehrmacht, against the left wing of the nazi party which was headed by Gregor Strasser, which culminated in the "Night of the Long Knives," and the murder of many of his former comrades in the SA, including Gregor Strasser. Haushofer also came under suspicion because of his contacts with left wing figures within the nazi movement and his advocacy of, what would amount to, a German - Russian alliance. The left wing of the nazi party was more socialist than nationalist . In fact, they had some connections to the German Communist Party and some of its leaders, especially those who were influenced by the National Bolshevist philosophy of a German - Russian revolutionary alliance, as advocated by Niekisch, Evola[1], Juenger, Hielscher and many other important figures of the "conservative - revolution" and the National Bolshevist movement.

Haushofers ideas were only of limited influence on the National Socialist regime for it had his own concept of geography and the expansion of the state. Nazi geopoliticians rejected Haushofer’s geopolitics because it failed to incorporate the ‘race principle’ adequately. Like Ratzel, at base Haushofer was a geographical determinist and argued that people cannot escape their geography. The Nazi racists, on the other hand, argued that the major determinants of history and almost everything was ‘race’ (i.e., genes and genetic heritage); ‘race’ could even nullify geography. Like Ratzel, Haushofer had some of his ideas hijacked by racists, but he was not a racist. In fact, his wife was half Jewish. As a result of Hess’ intervention, she was given ‘honorary German’ status, but that was not very acceptable to the anti-Semitic fanatics in the Nazi party. Nevertheless Haushofer is still accused of providing the academic and scientific support for the expansion of the Third Reich.

Haushofer did try to influence the Nazis, and Hess was a pipeline into the Nazi inner circles. As the Nazis gained influence and then came to power, Haushofer tried to soft-pedal the areas where his ideas differed from the Nazis. The Nazis set up their own ‘geopolitical’ think tanks and organisations, and probably with Hess’ influence, Haushofer was given a role and some leadership positions. But the Nazis wanted to Nazify everything and that included ‘geopolitical theory’. They began to point out the shortcomings and ‘errors’ of Haushofer’s geopolitics; increasingly, he was shoved out. In fact, by the war, he was really out of it completely.

Outside of Germany, only the Japanese geographical community supported the work of Haushofer and the ideas of geopolitics. Haushofer had been military attaché in Japan in 1909 and 1910. During his multiple visits to Japan, Haushofer made the acquaintance of many influential Japanese politicians and developed a strong rapport for the Japanese culture which helped in some way to create the German-Japanese alliance during the war. After Hitler came to power in 1933, Professor Haushofer was instrumental in developing Germany's alliance with Japan. Most of the meetings between high rank Japanese officials and Nazi leaders took place at his home near Munich. He saw Japan as the brother nation to Germany.

When war between Germany and England broke out Haushofer tried to use his influence with Hess in trying to convince Hitler to make peace with the British. In the Spring of 1941, after having failed to convince Hitler, Haushofer urged Hess to make a direct contact with the Duke of Hamilton, a Scottish member of the Golden Dawn. On may 10, 1941, Hess took off for Scotland. Whether Hitler knew his plans or not is still subject of debate among historians. The British government, however, didn' t even want to hear Hess' peace propositions and put him in jail incommunicado. After Hess' failure the Nazis denounced him as mentally disturbed.

Haushofer is known to have had a reputation for precognition, manifested when he was a young field artillery officer in the Bavarian army. In 1908 the army sent him to Tokyo to study the Japanese army and to advise it as an artillery instructor. The assignment changed the course of his life and marked the beginning of his love affair with the Orient. During the next four years he traveled extensively in the Far East, adding Korean, Japanese, and Chinese to his repertoire of Russian, French, and English languages.

Karl Haushofer had been a devout student of Schopenhauer, and during his stay in the Far East he was introduced to Oriental esoteric teachings. He became proficient enough to translate several Hindu and Buddhist texts, and became an authority in Oriental mysticism. Some authors even believe that he was the leader of a secret community of Initiates in a current of satanism through which he sought to raise Germany to world power, though these occult connections have been denied.

It is also believed that he belonged to the esoteric circle of George Gurdjieff. Others claim that he was a secret member of the Thule Society. Some authors have linked Haushofer's name with another esoteric group, the Vril Society, or Luminous Lodge, a secret society of occultists in pre-Nazi Berlin. Before the war Professor Haushofer and his son Albrecht allegedly maintained close contacts with British members of the Golden Dawn.

Karl Haushofer's son, Albrecht, was a Professor of Geography at the University of Berlin, and a consultant to the nazi foreign office and worked in the wartime resistance against Hitler. The Haushofers fell from grace. Albrecht was indicted in the July 20, 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler. Karl Haushofer was sent to the infamous Dachau concentration camp, and Albrecht to the Moabite prison in Berlin. Waiting for his trial and most likely execution, he wrote sonnets and hid them very carefully. On April 23, 1945, as Soviet troops closed in on the center of Berlin, the prison authorities released Albrecht and a group of fellow inmates. But immediately outside the gates a group of SS or SD men took charge of the prisoners, marched them to a vacant lot nearby, shot them, and left their bodies where they fell. Some weeks later, Albrecht's body was found by his younger brother. The dead man's right hand was hidden under his coat, still pressing to his heart the five folded sheets of paper bearing the sonnets.

The Moabit Sonnets were first published by a group of American Army officers in the occupation forces in Berlin. Since then they have been reprinted in Germany and many European countries and languages.

Following the war, Haushofer was interrogated by the allies and put to trial before the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal, but acquitted. Together with his wife Haushofer committed suicide on March 13, 1946, in Pähl, W. Germany.