Ernst Heilner was the son of the Jewish merchant Max Heilner (1838-1903) and his wife Franziska (Fanny), née Strauß (1846-1915).
After graduating from the Eberhard Ludwig Gymnasium in Stuttgart in 1896, Heilner moved to Munich and began studying human medicine. After taking his physic examination, he moved to Berlin, but returned to Munich for final examinations and his doctorate. In 1902, he received his license to practice medicine and was awarded his doctorate in the same year under Otto von Bollinger (1843-1909) with a case study on thymic hypertrophy in adults. In 1906, he habilitated in physiology at the same place under the nutritionist Carl von Voit (1831-1908) with a thesis on the digestion of glucose. As a private lecturer at the Munich Medical Faculty, he remained active in research at the Physiological Institute under von Voit, and from 1908 under Otto Frank (1856-1944). In 1912 he was appointed associate professor and held this position until the Nazis came to power.
Repressions Under the National Socialists
In June 1933, Heilner was dismissed from the Bavarian civil service with immediate effect in accordance with Section 3 of the "Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service." However, he continued to operate a practice as a specialist in internal medicine at Rückertstraße 7 in Munich. In the aftermath of the November pogroms, Heilner was arrested on November 11, 1938, and interned in the Dachau concentration camp until December 1, 1938. There he was forced to sign a power of attorney for the "utilization" of his real estate; his house at Prinzenstraße 21 in Munich was sold and he himself was obliged to pay rent by explicit order of the "trustee."
Because of the increasing restrictions Heilner faced as a Jewish doctor, the income from his private practice was not sufficient to finance his living. At the latest after the revocation of his license to practice medicine in 1938, the economic situation became increasingly precarious; moreover, after the change of ownership, a forced eviction of his house was announced for September 30, 1939. Out of this situation Heilner committed suicide in his house on September 13, 1939 with an overdose of morphine. He was buried in the Garchinger Straße Jewish Cemetery in Munich.1
Heilner's scientific work focused on metabolic and nutritional issues. He became known for developing various "organo-therapeutic preparations" for gout and arteriosclerosis, including a treatment for gout that involved injecting a cartilage extract into joints to bind and excrete excess uric acid. 2 The method was profitably marketed under the name "Heilner's Sanarthritol," but the theoretical considerations of the mechanism of action were not confirmed in practice.3
Heilner was active in the Automobile Club of Bavaria and was a member of the supervisory board of Deutsche Linoleum-Werke Aktiengesellschaft, based in Berlin, of which his cousin Richard Heilner (1876-1964) was general director. Moreover, he was very fond of playing the violin.4
Because Heilner had neither married nor had children, he designated his housekeeper Maria Malek (b. May 12, 1877 in Libice) as his testamentary heir.5