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Talking Germany

Blog with Peter Craven

Avi Primor’s friendship with an outstanding German

Learning to overcome hate

My latest guest on Talking Germany arrived very early for the recording. And, for technical reasons, we started somewhat later than planned. Which meant that Avi Primor – the “doesn’t-mince-his-words” former Israeli ambassador to Germany – and myself had a lot of time to chat. So, I looked him in the eye, and asked him for permission to ask some leading questions. Like: “How did you feel when you were appointed to the post of ambassador to Germany – the country which had, after all, murdered many members of your wife’s family?” 

The answer was interesting: “Not a tear, not a sigh, because I was ‘ripe’ for the job. Ten years earlier, I’d have said ‘no’ because at that time I still hated the Germans.” And how had he overcome this hate? “Well, it all began in Africa,” said Primor, “where I met the first German I had ever got to know in my life – against my will.” It must have been the early 1960s, Primor was a junior diplomat stationed in Ivory Coast, and his boss, the ambassador, had asked him whether he’d been round the other embassies to show his face. “Yes sir!” All of them? “Yes sir! Well, not quite.” 

Primor had skipped the German embassy, but having been instructed that he must call in there, too, he did so. And the deed was done: a short meeting with a similarly ranked German diplomat. Then, a while later, a call from to Primor’s home, which was located near the airport. “Hello, it’s me! I’m at the airport and thought I might pop round!” It was that German diplomat again. “My wife and I were fuming,” he said. “Asking ourselves: why can’t he just leave us alone?” 

“Anyway, he came round. And he stayed, stayed all night. Stayed in my life until his death. A very dear friend. And you know what the key to it was? You could talk about anything – including the anger.” It’s interesting, perhaps, to note that the German in question was a certain Claus von Amsberg, who would later become better known as Prince Claus – the husband of the Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. And, after overcoming great initial mistrust in that country, he was to play a highly-respected role in the process of reconciliation between the Dutch and the Germans.


October 24, 2010