Like Jörg Woltmann, owner of the Königliche Porzellan-Manufaktur Berlin, Wilhelm von Boddien has a passion for old cultural assets and Prussian history. With his sponsoring association, he made the reconstruction of the Berlin Palace possible. A conversation about ventures worth taking and the traces we leave behind in life.

Wilhelm von Boddien (left) und Jörg Woltmann im Innenhof der KPM. Photos: Peter Rigaud

JÖRG WOLTMANN: Dear Mr. von Boddien, it has been fascinating for me to observe how you have worked over the past 30 years to ensure that the Berlin Palace is restored to its former glory. In the meantime, you have been able to collect more than 100 million euros in donations. What has driven you?

WILHELM VON BODDIEN: I fell in love with the idea of bringing the palace back in 1961. I was 19 years old at the time and visiting East Berlin. I was at the parade ground where the Berlin Palace once stood and where the Palace of the Republic was later built. The dreariness there blew me away. Before reunification, I already had the palace as a hobby, a very intense hobby: On weekends, lunch at our house was only served in the kitchen, because the dining table was full of albums and pictures of the palace, and I refused to put them away.

Wilhelm von Boddien stands pensively at glass pane

Wilhelm von Boddien

Born in 1942 in Stargard in Pomerania. After graduating from high school, von Boddien completed a commercial apprenticeship and joined his father's company in Bargteheide. In 1992, he founded the Förderverein Berliner Schloss e.V., which is committed to the reconstruction of the palace on the Spree Island. In 1993/1994, he organized the exhibition "The Castle?" and had a simulation built on its old site. In 2004 he took over the management of the association. Von Boddien lives in Hamburg and is a recipient of the Federal Cross of Merit, 1st Class.

"After all, we each started an almost hopeless cause. I learned during that time how broad women's shoulders can be when you want to lean in and have a good cry."
—Wilhelm von Boddien

Jörg Woltmann stands smiling in the courtyard of the Royal Porcelain Manufactory in Berlin
Jörg Woltmann, born in 1947 in Berlin. In February 2006, he took over the Königliche Porzellan-Manufaktur Berlin as sole shareholder.

JÖRG WOLTMANN: Wanting to save an old cultural asset is a gamble.

WILHELM VON BODDIEN: Yes, and it has to be said that we both started an almost hopeless cause. I have known the wonderful institution KPM since Senate times. Whenever I was at an official dinner in Berlin, it was always served on KPM tableware. But the manufactory was down. There was an experimental phase of six or seven years, during which KPM was repeatedly on the verge of insolvency. And then you stepped up and did the greatest missionary deed for me: you bought this Prussian icon and brought it back to the forefront. And you did it with style and an admirable passion. You paid for KPM out of your own pocket. Because you wanted to give something back to society. That is a greatness that has become rare today…

Prussian cultural heritage: in the courtyard of the manufactory, porcelain busts of Frederick the Great stand in a display case.

"In the entrance hall of the Berlin Palace, major donors are honored on a plaque: their profile relief can be seen on medallions made of KPM porcelain."
— Wilhelm von Boddien

JÖRG WOLTMANN: Luckily, there have not only been sleepless nights in recent years, but also countless wonderful moments. For example one special moment for me was when the Chinese Prime Minister visited KPM with Angela Merkel and I was able to show him the manufactory. Although porcelain originally comes from China, he was very impressed by the history of KPM and by what this manufactory has created in Berlin. What was a special moment of happiness for you?

WILHELM VON BODDIEN: When I was sitting in the Reichstag building on July 4, 2002, and the Bundestag finally decided that the palace would be built. Wolfgang Thierse, the president of the Bundestag, and Norbert Lammert, who later became the president of the Bundestag, among other politicians, gave moving speeches at that time. Then the vote took place and a two-thirds majority was achieved across all parties. Then i knew that we had made it. The rest was just the fight for money, which we were able to win.

  • Wilhelm von Boddien sits on sofa
    Wilhelm von Boddien in the historic Ringkammerofenhalle
  • Jörg Woltmann stands smiling in the courtyard of the Royal Porcelain Manufactory Berlin
    Jörg Woltmann in the courtyard of the porcelain manufactory

The entire interview is available in KPM WEISS issue no. 04.

Cover of the WEISS magazine 2020
Read the whole story here WEISS Nr. 04

2017 Storyboard designed a magazine for the Royal Porcelain Manufactory Berlin: WEISS. The fourth issue of the yearly magazine was published in September 2020. On the cover: a whippet dog as a reminder of the royal manufactory founder Frederick the Great. His favorite dog Biche became the muse for a hand-painted cup.