Albrecht studied geography and history at Munich University. He graduated in 1924 with his thesis "Paß- Staaten in den Alpen", Erich von Drygalski (1865–1949) was his supervisor. Haushofer then worked as an assistant for Albrecht Penck.
A fellow student in geopolitics was Rudolf Hess, a very early follower of Adolf Hitler and later the Führer's deputy. Karl Haushofer was a frequent visitor to Landsberg Prison, where Hitler and Hess were jailed after the failed 1923 Beer Hall Putsch and Mein Kampf was written. Later, under the Nuremberg Laws, Haushofer was categorized as a mischling, however his close friend, Hess, succeeded in having him issued a German Blood Certificate.
Albrecht Haushofer was made secretary general of the Gesellschaft für Erdkunde, the geographical society and the editor of its periodical. He held this position from 1928 to 1938. Haushofer traveled the world in his official capacity, lecturing and gaining a wide experience of international affairs.
He started teaching geopolitics at the German Institute for Politics (Deutsche Hochschule für Politik) in 1933, which had lost many of its teachers with the Nazi ascent to power. He was made professor at the Berlin University department for foreign studies (Auslandsstudien), when it incorporated the old DHfP in 1940. He also was an advisor at the Dienststelle Ribbentrop from 1934 to 1938 (when Ribbentrop was made foreign minister his old bureau was disbanded). Haushofer then until 1941 sometimes worked at the propaganda department of the foreign ministry (Informationsabteilung des Auswärtigen Amtes).
Following the outbreak of the Second World War, Haushofer was involved in Hess' attempts to negotiate peace with the French and British, acting as an intermediary. It has been speculated that he may have encouraged Hess's flight to Scotland. Haushofer's fortune changed. Under suspicion to have helped Hess he was put in prison for some weeks and then kept under Gestapo surveillance. High-ranking members of the Nazi party looked disapprovingly upon his half-Jewish mother.
Haushofer met with people from the conservative Kreisau Circle opposition and the Red Orchestra group, whose Berlin leader Arvid Harnack also taught at the DHfP. He came to agree that the only way to prevent complete military and political disaster was to remove Hitler. After the failed 1944 bomb plot. Haushofer went into hiding, but was arrested at a farm in Bavaria in December 1944.
Incarcerated in Berlin-Moabit prison, he wrote his "Moabit Sonnets," published in 1946. Albrecht Haushofer and other inmates like Klaus Bonhoeffer and Rüdiger Schleicher were shot in the neck by SS troopers on nearby Invalidenstraße in the night of 22/23 April 1945, as Red Army troops entered Berlin. His body was discovered by his brother Heinz on 12 May 1945.
One of the sonnets, titled Schuld or "Guilt" was on his person at the time of his execution. It reads as follows:
Schuld Guilt ...schuldig bin ich I am guilty, Anders als Ihr denkt. But not in the way you think. Ich musste früher meine Pflicht erkennen; I should have earlier recognized my duty; Ich musste schärfer Unheil Unheil nennen; I should have more sharply called evil evil; Mein Urteil habe ich zu lang gelenkt... I reined in my judgment too long. Ich habe gewarnt, I did warn, Aber nicht genug, und klar; But not enough, and not clearly enough; Und heute weiß ich, was ich schuldig war. And today I know what I was guilty of.
Duke of Hamilton and the Hess affair
- This line is a play of words with the meanings of "schuldig". Another reading of this phrase would be "what had been my obligation".