Paulus van der Merwe was born in Johannesburg in 1960, the son of opera singer Jaco van der Merwe. At the age of 4 he started with piano lessons and at the age of 11 with the oboe. He finished his B.Mus at UNISA and was appointed as oboist by the SABC Symphony Orchestra. During this time he finished his postgraduate studies at the University of the Witwatersrand.
At the age of 23, after winning the UNISA performers bursary as well as the SAMRO competition, he continued his studies in Germany. He took private lessons with the principal oboist of the Berlin Philharmonic, Lothar Koch, and Manfred Clement in Munich. He soon won a scholarship to the Herbert von Karajan Academy of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra and played there for two years. Later, as principal oboist to Detmol, he started intensifying his activities as soloist, especially with the chamber orchestra of Tibor Varga, where he jumped in as soloist and conductor when Mr. Varga became ill.
In 1988 Paulus was appointed principal oboist by the NDR Symphony Orchestra in Hamburg, where he is still playing today. Since 1990 he has also been principal oboist of the Wagner Festival Orchestra in Bayreuth. He is also a regular guest as principal oboist in all the major German orchestras. He performs as a soloist internationally and has made recordings of many solo concerts with conductors like Günter Wand, Franz Brüggen, W. Neumann, Heribert Beissel and others. He is also a South African National Youth Orchestra (SANYO) alumnus. In 1990 he started teaching at the Hochschule in Lübeck and a few years later was appointed professor by the Hochschule in Hamburg. He conducts courses and master classes for oboe and chamber music all over Europe, Japan, USA and South Africa. Many of the top positions in German orchestras have been taken by his students.