Wolfgang Abendroth was born in Elberfeld in 1906 and grew up in a family of Social Democrats. His father was a teacher. He joined the Kommunistische Jugend Deutschland (Communist Youth Germany) at the age of 14. As a result of his agitation for a united front of Social Democrats and Communists, he was expelled from the KPD in 1928. In 1933, he lost his job as a junior lawyer for political reasons, and went on to provide legal advice for many opponents of the regime. Following his first arrest,
Abendroth emigrated to Switzerland, where he gained his PhD. After acting as a courier for some time, he decided to return to Berlin in 1935. There, he was an active member of the resistance until he was imprisoned for several years in 1937. Forcibly drafted into one of the 999th Division’s “probation units” in February 1943, he soon deserted to the Greek partisan organization “ELAS.” He was taken prisoner by the British, and carried out political education for opponents of the regime in prisoner of war camps in Egypt.