Böll was born in Cologne, Germany, to a Catholic, pacifist family that later opposed the rise of Nazism. He refused to join the Hitler Youth during the 1930s. He was apprenticed to a bookseller before studying German at the University of Cologne. In 1942 he married Annemarie Cech, with whom he would have three sons; she later collaborated with him on a number of different translations of English and American literature into German that he produced over the years. Conscripted into the Wehrmacht, he served in Poland, France, Romania, Hungary and the Soviet Union, and was wounded four times (as well as contracting typhoid fever) before being captured by Americans in April 1945 and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp.