Erna Derm was born into a wealthy family. Russian intellectuals and famous Jewish writers such as Hayim Nahman Bialik and Shalom Asch used to spend time in her childhood home.
After graduating from high school, Erna Derm studied painting in private academies and at the School of Fine Arts in Munich. Following a trip to Paris, she studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Saint Petersburg from 1914-1915. She returned to Paris in 1920 and continued to study. She was a popular ceramicist and also produced paintings, drawings, and gouaches. She exhibited at the Salons.
Erna Derm was arrested on July 17, 1942 and was deported in convoy number 6. Her husband was arrested the day before. She was murdered by the Nazis.
Capitale des arts, le Paris des années 1905-1939 attire les artistes du monde entier. De cette période de foisonnement, un terme est resté, celui d'Ecole de Paris, qui recouvre une grande diversité d'expression artistique. Dans ce brassage dont Montparnasse est le creuset, un groupe se distingue : celui des artistes juifs venus de Russie, de Pologne et d'Europe centrale. Si leurs styles sont variés, un destin commun les rassemble : ils fuient l'antisémitisme de leur pays d'origine. Certains ont connu la célébrité dès les années 1920, tels Soutine, Lipchitz ou Chagall. D'autres n'ont pas eu le temps ou la chance d'y accéder. Près de la moitié a péri dans les camps de concentration nazis.
From 1905 to 1939, Paris attracted artists from all over the globe as the capital of the art world. This period of artistic proliferation became known as the School of Paris, and includes a great diversity of artistic expression. Within the teeming art world centred on Montparnasse, one group set itself apart: Jewish artists from Russia, Poland, and Central Europe. Although their styles were diverse, they shared the common fate of fleeing anti-Semitic persecutions in their home countries. Some became famous in the 1920s, such as Soutine, Lipchitz, and Chagall, while others did not have the time or the luck to gain renown. Nearly half of these artists died in Nazi concentration camps.