Early life and education
Gröning was born in June 1921,
Lower Saxony, the son of a skilled textile worker.
:139 His mother died when he was four.
 His father, a nationalist and strict conservative, joined the
Stahlhelm after Germany's defeat in the
First World War (during which his father had lost an eye),
 and his father's anger at how Germany had been treated following the
Treaty of Versailles increased as his textile business went
bankrupt in 1929 due to insufficient capital.
Gröning stated that his childhood had been one of "discipline, obedience and authority".
 Gröning was fascinated by military uniforms, and one of his earliest memories is of looking at photos of his grandfather, who served in an elite regiment of the
Duchy of Brunswick, on his horse and playing his trumpet.
:139 He told
Der Spiegel in 2005, that as a child, he played marbles in the street with Anne Selig, the daughter of a Jewish ironmonger whose store was next to his home.
 When Nazi storm troopers held up a sign outside the shop saying, "Germans, do not buy from Jews," he said, he was unmoved.
 He joined the
Scharnhorst, the Stahlhelm's youth organisation as a small boy in the 1930s, and later the
Hitler Youth when the
Nazis came to power in 1933.
:139–140 Influenced by his family's values, he felt that Nazism was advantageous to Germany and believed that the Nazis "were the people who wanted the best for Germany and who did something about it."
:140 He participated in the burning of books written by
Jews and other authors that the Nazis considered
degenerate in the belief that he was helping Germany free itself from an alien culture, and considered that National Socialism was having a positive effect on the economy, pointing to lower unemployment.
Gröning left school with high marks and began a traineeship as a bank clerk when he was 17, but
war was declared shortly after he started employment and eight of the twenty clerks present were immediately conscripted into the army.
:140 This allowed the remaining trainees to further their banking careers in a relatively short time; however, despite these opportunities, Gröning and his colleagues were inspired by Germany's quick victories in France and Poland and wanted to contribute.