Liana Millu was born to Jewish family in Pisa, Italy, and raised by her grandparents. After leaving school, she became a trainee journalist, an unusual occupation for a woman in that era. She was banned from enrolling in university by the Fascist racial laws.
In 1943, she joined the Italian resistance based in Genoa. She was arrested in 1944 and deported to the Nazi concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau and Ravensbrück. She survived, and after the war, settled in Genoa and became a teacher and writer. Her memoir of her experiences, Il fumo di Birkenau (Smoke over Birkenau), was first published in 1947 but did not receive wide public attention until being republished in 1986. It was translated into English by novelist Lynne Sharon Schwartz.
Millu's other books included the novel I ponti di Schwerin (The Bridges of Schwerin, 1978); La camicia di Josepha (Josepha's Shirt, 1988), a collection of stories;
and the nonfiction Dalla Liguria ai campi di steriminio (From Liguria to the Extermination Camps, 1980). Her work is included in the Italian anthology Twentieth-Century Ligurian Writers.