Walter W. Arndt was born to German parents in Constantinople (present-day Istanbul, Turkey), where his father was teaching organic chemistry at the university. When he was two years old, the family returned to Germany. He attended gymnasium in Breslau, and then read economics and political science at Oxford University. After graduation, he went to Warsaw, Poland for graduate study. He became fluent in Polish and Russian, and later learned English, French, and Czech. In 1939, when Nazi Germany invaded Poland at the start of World War II, he joined the Polish Army. He was captured by the Germans but escaped from the POW camp and worked for a year for the Polish underground resistance. He managed to make his way back to Istanbul, where he studied mechanical engineering at Robert College and worked for the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (forerunner of the CIA). He married Miriam Bach, with whom he would have four children. After the war, he taught at Robert College and worked for the United Nations refugee and resettlement agencies. In 1949, the family emigrated to the USA. He held various teaching jobs while earning a doctorate in comparative linguistics and classics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1956. He then joined the faculty at UNC and rose to become professor of Humanities and Russian Language and Literature and later chair of the Department of Linguistics, Slavic and Oriental Languages. In 1966, he became a professor at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. He translated numerous works and in 1963 won Yale University's Bollingen Prize for his translation of Aleksandr Pushkin's Eugene Onegin. His own writings included a memoir, A Picaro in Hitler's Europe, published in 2003.