1938 - 1945: "When the War Broke Out" and "When the War was Over"

Böll is called up for "Reich Labour Service" (Reichsarbeitsdienst).

In April, Böll enrols at Cologne University. In autumn, with the outbreak of WW II, he is called up for military service.

1939 - 1945
Böll is stationed at an army training camp in Osnabrück (until May 1940); in Poland (May and June 1940); in France (June to September 1940); in Germany (September 1940 to May 1942); again in France (May 1942 to October 1943); in Russia, the Crimea and Odessa (October 1943 to February 1944); finally at various places in Germany until taken prisoner in April 1945.
During the war years, he writes almost daily letters to his family and to his fiancée Annemarie Cech, whom he marries in 1942. In 1944 his mother dies of a heart attack, following an air raid. Throughout the war, Böll who did not want to be promoted to officer rank, avoided active service as much as possible. At first he put in applications to obtain leave to study; later he reported sick or forged leave passes; he was wounded four times.
Heinrich Böll lives through the end of the war in the Rhineland where he temporarily deserts and goes into hiding with his wife. Then, fearing to be picked up as a deserter and being court-martialled and shot, he rejoins the army at the end of February 1945. Shortly afterwards he is captured by American troops.
On April 8, 1945, Cologne was liberated by the American army. He is a POW until September 1945. The same year his son Christoph is born but dies shortly afterwards.