Walter Serner was born Walter Eduard Seligmann, 15th January 1889 in Karlsbad, Czechoslovakia. He moved to Berlin to study law, and became Walter Serner after a religious conversion in 1909. In 1914 he went to Switzerland and until 1920 participated in Dada activities in Zurich, Geneva and Paris.
In his autobiography Hans Richter wrote of Serner that "he was so naive as to think he could find sympathizers in the world of art. After he turned his back on the art world-the very art world that later used his ideas like a brand of laundry detergent – Serner glorified a world of criminals in which everybody deceives everybody."