Erika was born in Znojmo, a town in the Czech region of Moravia with a Jewish community dating back to the 13th century. Her father was a respected attorney and an ardent Zionist who hoped to immigrate with his family to Palestine. In 1931 the Neumans moved to Stanesti, a town in the Romanian province of Bukovina, where Erika's paternal grandparents lived.
1933–39: In Stanesti, Erika attended the public school as well as the Hebrew school, which her father had helped to found. She loved to play with her sister Beatrice and the other children in the town, and enjoyed being with her grandfather. Her childhood was filled with hopes and dreams for the future. In 1937, however, members of the fascist Iron Guard tried to remove Erika's father from his position as the chief civil official in Stanesti. Eventually, a court cleared him of the fabricated charges and he was restored to his post.
1940–45: In 1940 the Soviet Union occupied Bukovina. A year later, when Romania joined Nazi Germany in the war against the Soviet Union, the Soviets were driven from Stanesti. Mobs then carried out bloody attacks on the town's Jews. During the violence, Erika and her family fled to Czernowitz with the aid of the local police chief. In fall 1941, the Neumans were forced to settle in the Czernowitz ghetto, where living conditions were poor and the Jews there were subject to deportation to Transnistria. In 1943 Erika and Beatrice escaped from the ghetto on false papers that their father had obtained.
After escaping to the Soviet Union, Erika and Beatrice returned to Czechoslovakia, where they were eventually reunited with their parents. Erika married an officer in the Czech army and raised two children. After many years of hard effort and her mother and sister's appeals to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, she was permitted to immigrate to the United States in 1960, three years after the death of her husband. Erika became a supervisor of a pathology lab.