Walter Jacobsberg was the only child of Siegfried and Betti Heimann Jacobsberg. He was born on March 7, 1916 in Stettin, Germany, where his father ran a retail fur business. After completing his schooling in the mid-1930s, Walter obtained a position in a Jewish-owned bank in Stettin. During the Kristallnacht pogrom of November 9-10, 1938, Walter was arrested by the Gestapo. After his interrogation, the police arrested his father as well and sent them both to Sachsenhausen. Walter's mother was able to win their release only after securing false steamship tickets to Shanghai. When Walter and his father returned to Stettin in December, the family booked legitimate passage to Shanghai. The Jacobsbergs left Stettin for Berlin in the spring of 1939, where Betti died quite suddenly. Walter, his father and an uncle proceeded on to Trieste, where they boarded the SS Conte Rosso on June 14, 1939. The three arrived in Shanghai on July 9 and took up residence in the Hongkew refugee camp. Walter's father opened a tailor shop and managed to buy a house just outside the ghetto. Walter secured employment as a German-English interpreter, serving both the refugee community and the Chinese court. In September 1940 his father married Regina Leib Kraus. She, however, passed away in 1945. With the help of relatives in the United States, Walter and his father obtained immigration papers and left Shanghai aboard the SS General Gordon on January 8, 1947. After their arrival in San Francisco they traveled by train to New York, where Walter was reunited with his fiancée, Hanne Loewenthal. Hanne had left Stettin for England in April 1939, and the two had carried on a long distance courtship between England and Shanghai with the help of the Red Cross. Walter and Hanne were married on February 23, 1947 and settled in New York.