Born in Berlin in 1908, Liselotte Grothe and her family later moved to Frankfurt, where her father worked for a chemical company. Grothe studied with Karl Mannheim, who served as her doctoral adviser at Frankfurt University. During her years as a student, she enjoyed the stimulating intellectual climate created by scholars such as Mannheim, Erich Fromm, Max Wertheimer, Max Horkheimer, and Paul Tillich. Her years in Frankfurt set the intellectual tone for the rest of her life, even though it turned out very differently from what she had envisioned. Being Jewish and a socialist, Grothe had to leave Germany; she went to England in 1934, where she stayed until 1939.
In 1939, Grothe moved to the United States to continue her academic career. Based on her background in sociology and her interest in child psychology, a student advisor recommended taking up social work. She attended the Columbia School of Social Work in New York City and graduated with a Master’s degree in Social Work (MSW). Remaining in the New York City Metropolitan Area for the rest of her life, Grothe dedicated her professional activities primarily to family services and juvenile courts. Liselotte Grothe combined her European background in sociology and philosophy; her personal experiences of migration, persecution, expulsion, and resettlement; and American social work traditions in her practical endeavors in social reform.