Elisabeth Axmann was born in Romania to a family of German origin. She spent her childhood in Bukovina, Moldavia, and Transylvania, as her father, a civil servant, was often transferred. During World War II, the family had to flee both the German and Russian armies. Elisabeth earned her baccalaureate in 1946-1947. In 1954, she married Titus Mocanu, and took the surname Axmann-Mocanu. The couple moved to Bucharest, where Elisabeth worked as editor of the culture section of the German-language newspaper Neuer Weg. She also became a translator of works from German into Romanian. In 1977, she defected from Romania and settled in Germany, where she continues to write.