Michael Ende started elementary school in 1936. Four years later his parents decided to send him to grammar school. He managed to scrape through the admissions exam for the Humanistische Maximilians-Gymnasium (a grammar school in Munich with a focus on humanities), but failed his end-of-year assessment and was obliged to repeat the year. His academic failure plunged him into despair, and he contemplated suicide. ‘My goodness!’ he exclaimed when asked about his schooldays. ‘I was terrible at school. I was hopeless in class, and lived in constant terror of going back the next day. School for me was a long grey prison sentence of indefinite duration. The last two years were a little better - I attended a Waldorf school, which of course was banned by the Nazis and re-opened after the war. But it was too late by then to make a real difference. I was already thoroughly traumatized by school.’
Edgar Ende was called up in 1941 and initially served in a flak unit near Cologne. Normally all twelve-year-old boys would be required to join the Hitler Youth, but the Endes succeeded in finding an alternative solution. Michael Ende enrolled at a nearby SA riding school and was authorized to learn to ride instead.