It's an incredible story. Against all odds and odds, a man realizes his childhood dream: to reconstruct the Berlin Palace in the heart of the capital that was blown up by the communists in 1950.
As a 19-year-old Wilhelm von Boddien saw the desolate Schlossplatz in East Berlin, and at the age of 79 he stood quietly enjoying his triumph amidst the baroque splendor of the Schlueterhof when the completed building containing the Humboldt Forum was inaugurated. He and his fellow campaigners had collected an impressive 110 million euros in private donations.
Wilhelm von Boddien's memoirs have now been published, in which he reviews the many twists and turns and episodes in this 30-year struggle: “The Berlin Palace Adventure. Memoirs of an idealist” (Wasmuth
He has seen them all come and go: the palace project employed three federal chancellors, eleven building ministers and five culture ministers, as well as three governing mayors and six senators for urban development.
The great constant was he, the Hamburg businessman, the managing director of the Berlin Palace Association, who was able to celebrate a first stage victory in 1993 with the ingenious coup of the mock palace: Many opponents of a reconstruction recognized at the time how important the palace body was for the architectural cohesion of the center Berlin was.
As his book proves, Wilhelm von Boddien is not only an inventive and persistent fighter for the castle, he is also a gifted storyteller. One reads firmly in the well-portioned chapters, for example when he describes how he managed to advance to Helmut Kohl at the CDU federal party conference in Berlin in 1993 in order to win the chancellor at the time for the palace project.
Hanna-Renate Laurien, the President of the Berlin House of Representatives, had smuggled Boddien through all the checks to the front row and told him to keep his eyes fixed on the chancellor until he saw him. It worked, and Kohl waved Boddien onto the podium, listened to him carefully, but gave him little hope: the CDU is not doing well in the east of the country, so he could not speak out against the Palace of the Republic.
It's just one of many examples of Boddien's perseverance. He quotes the historian Christoph Stölzl, who said to the guests at a donation evening for the castle: "Boddien is like a terrier and bites your calf. Give him what he wants or you won't get rid of him!"
What was the happiest moment in the long history of the castle, he was asked at the presentation of his book. And Boddien told of a summer evening shortly after the opening of the castle. He had just pushed his bike into the Schlueterhof and approached the tables in the restaurant. "Suddenly, two guests recognized me and started clapping, and eventually everyone in attendance stood up and applauded."