Bernhard Heiliger was born on November 11, 1915, in Stettin (present-day Szczecin, Poland). After an apprenticeship in stone sculpture and training at the Workshop for Formative Works, Heiliger studied under Arno Breker and Richard Scheibe at the College for Visual Arts Berlin from 1938 until 1941.
In 1939, Berhard Heiliger went to Paris, where he met Aristide Maillol and studied the works of the sculptors Hans Arp and Constantin Brancusi. During the war, he had to divide his time between the war front and Breker's workshop.
After the war, Heiliger went to Berlin to live and work there as a freelance sculptor. He worked as a lecturer at the Academy for Applied Art in Berlin-Weißensee from 1947 until 1949. He was given a position at the College for Visual Arts Berlin in 1949. In his studio in Berlin-Dahlem, Heiliger created numerous large plastic works, most of which were cast in bronze.
His participation in the Biennale in Venice in 1956 and in the "documenta" in Kassel in 1955, 1959, and 1964 showed the international reputation he had acquired. In 1956, he was also honored with the highest prize for the arts in North Rhine-Westphalia.
1969 marked the second phase of Heiliger's artistic work. He began experimenting with new materials such as aluminum, wood, marble, steel, and synthetic materials, creating many unique pieces. He obtained further contracts for public works and sculptures intended to be incorporated into buildings. In 1947, Berhard Heiliger received the Great Cross of Merit of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany and in 1957 was awarded the Lovis Corinth Prize.
As of 1980, he turned more and more toward iron works. His tenure as a lecturer at the College for Visual Arts ended in 1989. Even into the 1990's, Heiliger continued to put on large exhibitions and several retrospectives were organized in his honor.
Bernhard Heiliger died on October 25, 1995, in Berlin.