Like the owner of KPM Berlin, Jörg Woltmann, Wilhelm von Boddien also has a passion for old cultural assets and Prussian history. With his support association he made the reconstruction of the Berlin Palace possible. A conversation from our WEISS customer magazine No. 4 about risks that are worth taking and the traces we leave behind in life.

JÖRG WOLTMANN: Dear Mr. von Boddien, it was fascinating for me to observe how you have worked over the past 30 years to ensure that the Berlin Palace is rebuilt in its old splendor. They have now collected over 100 million euros in donations. What motivated you?

WILHELM VON BODDIEN: I fell in love with the idea of ​​bringing the castle back in 1961. At that time I was 19 years old and visiting East Berlin. I stood on the parade ground where the Berlin Palace was once located and where the Palace of the Republic was later built. The sadness there blew me away. Before reunification, I already had the castle as a hobby, a very intensive hobby: on the weekends at home we only had lunch in the kitchen because the dining table was full of albums and pictures of the castle and I refused to clear these away.

Jörg Woltmann and Wilhelm von Boddien in the historic ring chamber furnace hall of the KPM Berlin.

JÖRG WOLTMANN: If you are passionate about a cause, like you are for the Berlin Palace and I am for the Royal Porcelain Manufactory, then the family has to go along with it. When I bought KPM, my wife said: If you think it's good for you and for Berlin, then do it. She's known me long enough to know that it's hard to stop me from doing something. How was it for you?

WILHELM VON BODDIEN: My wife also knows that I will carry out whatever I start. And she always had my back on this project. Our children, however, initially mocked me: “You and your stupid castle.” But when they saw the castle simulation that we built in 1994 for the first time, they suddenly said: “Maybe Dad is right after all.” That was very good.

JÖRG WOLTMANN: The simulation using fabric strips convinced many doubters about the project.

WILHELM VON BODDIEN: Yes, it showed people how beautiful the city could be with the castle. But this dummy also gave me sleepless nights. In order to be able to build it together with an exhibition inside, I had to immediately invest 300,000 German marks to be able to pay the craftsmen. However, the support association had no money at all and was therefore not creditworthy. I signed an immediately enforceable, directly enforceable personal guarantee with the bank. I didn't tell my wife about it at the time. Three of our five children were currently studying and a middle-class person like me doesn't have that much money. So my wife was surprised that sometimes at night I would sit upright in bed and talk stupid things - she didn't know what about. In retrospect, she forgave me for all of this and supported me wherever she could. During this time I learned how broad women's shoulders can be when you want to lean on them and cry.

JÖRG WOLTMANN: Trying to save an old cultural asset is a risk.

WILHELM VON BODDIEN: Yes, and you have to say that we both started an almost hopeless thing. I have known the wonderful institution KPM since my Senate days. Whenever I was at an official meal in Berlin, it was always served on KPM dishes. But the factory was in ruins. There was an experimental phase of six or seven years in which KPM repeatedly found itself on the verge of bankruptcy. And then you stepped up and did the greatest missionary deed for me: you bought this Prussian icon and brought it forward again. And do it with style and an admirable passion. You paid the KPM out of your own pocket. Because you wanted to give something back to society. This is a size that has become rare today.


WILHELM VON BODDIEN Born in 1942 in Stargard in Pomerania. After graduating from high school, von Boddien did a commercial apprenticeship and joined his father's company in Bargteheide. In 1992 he founded the Berliner Schloss Association, which is committed to the reconstruction of the castle on the Spree Island. In 1993/1994 he organized the exhibition “The Castle?” and had a simulation built in its old location. In 2004 he took over the management of the club. Von Boddien lives in Hamburg and is a recipient of the Federal Cross of Merit, 1st Class.

JÖRG WOLTMANN: Fortunately, there have not only been sleepless nights in the past few years, but also countless beautiful moments. A special moment for me, for example, was when the Chinese Prime Minister visited the KPM with Angela Merkel and I was able to show him the factory. Although porcelain originally comes from China, he was very impressed by the history of KPM and what this manufacturer in Berlin had created. What was a particularly happy moment for you?

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

JÖRG WOLTMANN: With the castle you are not just rebuilding a beautiful building and our KPM tableware is not just design. We agree that it is important to save these historical cultural assets and pass them on to the next generation.

JÖRG WOLTMANN Born in 1947 in Berlin. After graduating from high school, he completed an apprenticeship as a banker and studied business administration in Berlin. In 1979 Woltmann founded the private bank ABK General Officials Bank. In February 2006 he took over the Royal Porcelain Manufactory Berlin as sole shareholder. Woltmann is a recipient of the Federal Cross of Merit and was awarded the Order of Merit of the State of Berlin in 2015.

WILHELM VON BODDIEN: Anyone who raises children must give them roots so that they grow wings. We have an uprooted society at the moment. Everything is questioned. In contrast to analog media, the Internet no longer has any rules. This makes it all the more important to give support to people who are looking for support. This also includes a return to the positive parts of our past, which we also have. If we don't do this, we shouldn't be surprised if young people no longer find a basis when they look for the wrong role models. And then we drive the box here against the wall.

JÖRG WOLTMANN: I have had the honor and pleasure of visiting the Berlin Palace several times. It was very impressive. Anyone who doubted will be amazed. And I am proud that KPM can be a part of it.

WILHELM VON BODDIEN: Right in the entrance hall, the major donors are honored with a plaque in which a 30 centimeter large porcelain medallion is embedded. It shows a profile relief of the donor in a side view. These medallions are currently being modeled and fired in bisque porcelain by KPM Berlin. This means that the major donors find themselves in the unique building for which they committed themselves. A highly exciting and, above all, stimulating affair that has stimulated the success of donations. After all, every person would like to leave a mark in their life.

JÖRG WOLTMANN: The official opening of the castle has been postponed due to Corona. Is there already a new date?

WILHELM VON BODDIEN: Unfortunately not. There were construction delays and the museums were not yet able to move in. A so-called soft opening is now planned for December. We open without any fuss. Next summer we want to hold a celebratory opening with the Chancellor and the Federal President. But no one can say with certainty whether this will all work out, as it would be a major event. But Corona also had an advantage. I was able to collect donations even longer.

Text: Sandra Winkler

Images: Peter Rigaud