Born in Düsseldorf to a strict Catholic family, Klausener followed his father's career in public service, serving for a time in the Prussian Ministry of Trade. Klausener served as an ordnance officer in Belgium, France, and the Eastern front in World War I; he was decorated with the Iron Cross Second Class in 1914 and with the Iron Cross First Class in 1917. Klausener's participation in boycotts during the French occupation of the Ruhr in 1923 and 1924 earned him a sentence of two months' imprisonment.
Beginning in 1924, Klausener served in the Prussian welfare ministry, and later led the police division of that state's interior ministry. Beginning in 1928, Klausener became head of the Katholische Aktion (Catholic Action) group. Prior to 1933, Klausener energetically supported the police battle against unlawful National Socialist activities. After Adolf Hitler and the National Socialists came to power in 1933, Hermann Göring became minister-president of Prussia. Klausener was shunted aside to the Prussian transportation ministry to make way for Göring to Nazify the Prussian police.
A close associate of vice chancellor Franz von Papen, Klausener contributed to his Marburg speech delivered on June 17, 1934. The speech, though moderate in tone, criticized the violence and repression that had taken place since Hitler became chancellor. Klausener spoke at the Catholic Congress in Berlin's Hoppegarten on June 24; his impassioned and improvised criticism of the National Socialists' repression of their opponents was viewed by the Nazis as open defiance.
Six days later, as the Night of the Long Knives erupted, a squad of SS men, apparently acting on the orders of Göring and Reinhard Heydrich, entered Klausener's office at the transportation ministry and shot him dead at his desk.
After the end of Nazi rule and after World War II, a memorial to Klausener was established in Berlin. Since 1963, his ashes are reposing in a grave in the Catholic Church Maria Regina Martyrum, commemorating the martyrs of the Nazi period.
Klausener's relationship with the future Pope Pius XII has at times been a matter of controversy. While writers like Guenter Lewy have expressed criticism at Pius for not intervening more forcefully during the affair, other authors like Joseph Bottum and David G. Dalin have presented a more positive appreciation of Pius' attitude during that time.
A part of a commemorative plaque in memorial of Catholics of Archdiocese of Berlin murdered during the war, in a cript of St. Hedwig's Cathedral in Berlin.
- The Catholic Church and Nazi Germany, by Guenter Lewy
- The Pius war: responses to the critics of Pius XII, by J. Bottum, David G. Dalin
- Brief biography of Erich Klausener – from the German Resistance Memorial Center
- Martin Persch (1992). "Erich Klausener". In Bautz, Friedrich Wilhelm. Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL) (in German) 3. Herzberg: Bautz. cols. 1570–1573. ISBN 3-88309-035-2.