Heilmann, Ernst

(1881-1940)
   politician; skillfully led the SPD's Prus-sian Landtag faction during 1921-1933. Born to a middle-class Jewish family in Berlin,* he began studying law while attending Gymnasium. Although he successfully completed the first round of legal examinations, his political views precluded a requisite appointment as a jurist—he had joined the SPD as a stu-dent. Turning to journalism, he served in 1903-1907 as a parliamentary reporter and then worked as the Chemnitzer Volksstimme' s chief editor from 1909 to 1914. While he was in Chemnitz, he completed a history of the Chemnitz work-ers' movement. A member of the SPD's right wing, he volunteered for military service in 1914, but was released in 1917 when wounds left him blind in one eye. He returned to Berlin and served consecutively as editor of Sozialistischen Korrespondenz, the moderate-socialist journal Die Glocke, and (from 1929) the weekly Freie Wort. He also helped found the Reichsbund der Kriegsbeschadig-ten (League for War Cripples).
   Heilmann was elected to Prussia's* Landtag in 1919 and retained his seat until 1933, serving from 1921 as faction leader. Although he was concurrently in the Reichstag* from 1928, his focus remained the Landtag; indeed, his influ-ence was such that one colleague called him "the uncrowned king of Prussia." He was consistently an energetic exponent of the Republic against radical de-tractors on the Left and the Right. Throughout 1924-1932, the Prussian gov-ernment of Otto Braun* was indebted to his parliamentary skills and his superb relations with the Center* and DDP factions. As a friend of Julius Barmat,* he became a target of the DNVP during Barmat's 1925 corruption trial; lack of evidence allowed him to weather the attacks. Heilmann was perhaps the period's premier parliamentarian; his pragmatism led him to advocate compromise with Germany's wartime adversaries.
   Although friends urged Heilmann to flee Germany after Hitler's* seizure of power, he remained in Berlin. Being both of Jewish ancestry and a socialist, he was arrested in June 1933. Thereafter Heinrich Himmler* took personal charge of his bitter path, which led through seven years of prison and concentration camp. He was executed by lethal injection at Buchenwald.
   REFERENCES:Benz and Graml, Biographisches Lexikon; Breitman, German Socialism; NDB, vol. 8; Orlow, Weimar Prussia, 1918-1925.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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