1917- 1937: Between two wars - childhood and adolescence

Heinrich Böll, the sixth child of Viktor Böll, master carpenter and woodcarver, and his wife Maria, is born in Cologne on 21 December, when wartime hunger is at its worst.

The family moves from the southern part of the old city to the more outlying district of Raderberg.

1924 – 1928
Heinrich attends elementary school in Köln-Raderthal.

1928 - 1937
He attends the Kaiser-Wilhelm Gymnasium, a classical grammar school in Cologne

The great depression leads to the collapse of the small bank for craftsmen in which Viktor Böll had invested. The Bölls have to sell their house in Raderberg and move back to the southern part of central Cologne. In the years that follow they are not much better off then the rest of the three million unemployed. Visits to pawnbrokers, bailiffs on the doorstep, and the seizure of household goods become part of everyday life.

1933 - 1936
On 30 January, 1933 Hitler is appointed Chancellor and Nazi terror spreads in Cologne, too. The Böll family discusses political events frequently and openly. On Hitler's election, Heinrich's mother says, "This means war!" Dated manuscripts in Böll's literary estate such as short stories and poems show that he started writing in 1936.

Heinrich passes his A levels (Abitur) and begins an apprenticeship with the bookseller Math. Lemperz in Bonn, however giving notice after only a short period.