Paul Paun (born Zaharia Herșcovici, and who later in life changed his legal name to Zaharia Zaharia) was born on September 5, 1915 in Bucharest, Romania. He was the youngest of two children of the Moldavian Jewish couple Helena and Rudolf Herşcovici.
His paternal grandfather, Zaharia, was an observant Jew from the Russian Empire who had escaped the draft and was living incognito in Romania; his first name was passed on to his grandson, Zaharia. He chose the pseudonym Paul Paun while still in high school.
Paun, his parents, and his older sister Nini lived in a suburb area just south of Dealul Mitropoliei.