A doctor is rekindling belief that Germany can manage its refugee crisis by sharing harrowing details from his work with newly arrived migrants. His Facebook post has been shared more than 245,000 times in a few days.
Raphaele Lindemann set out to write a neutral firsthand account of his work on the front line of Germany's refugee crisis, but quickly found it was impossible.
For the last month, the German doctor from Mainz has been providing initial medical treatment to newly arrived asylum seekers at an emergency shelter. And the things he's witnessed have convinced him that Germany is right to continue to open its borders to refugees.
Lindemann said that the current heated political debate about Merkel's open-door policy prompted him to share his experiences. He is one of the few people who sees what condition the refugees are in when they get to Germany - before they've been registered, before they've been given donated clothing to wear, before they've even had a chance to shower.
"I can assure you that it's impossible to look with 'naive, rose-colored glasses' at frostbitten feet that have marched more than 500 kilometers (more than 300 miles) in broken shoes and wet socks in the middle of winter, " he wrote.
'I have never seen such suffering'
The post (in German) continues: "These people arrive here in an absolutely desolate, pitiful condition. Some people might be surprised to know that the arrivals are not 90 percent young, healthy men… I see between 300 and 500 refugees per shift, and at least 40 percent are children. There are families, there are old people, and yes, there are young men. Why not? The one thing they have in common is that they are all exhausted. I have never before seen such suffering and despair."
At one point during the lengthy post, he describes treating a woman who arrived at the shelter with severe burns on both legs.
"I have no idea how she even made it here," he said. "It took us half an hour just to remove the dirty, stinking bandages from her festering wounds. But not once did she complain. This woman radiated gratitude, because she was finally safe, and because someone finally cared for her."
Voice of support for Merkel
Lindemann's post comes at a time when public opinion about Chancellor Angela Merkel's refugee policy is shifting. When Merkel uttered the now famous catchphrase "Wir schaffen das" - "We can do this" - at a press conference at the end of August, the majority of Germans took pride in having a leader so clearly committed to doing what was morally right. But the influx of refugees has not abated, and there is still no EU-wide agreement on how to deal with the crisis.
For many Germans, the tipping point came on New Year's Eve. The mass sexual assaults on women in Cologne blamed primarily on young, male migrants from North Africa raised fears about the nation's uncontrolled immigration. Merkel's popularity has since plummeted. According to a recent poll, some 40 percent of Germans want her to resign over her refugee policy.
But Lindemann is swimming against the tide. "When [Merkel] said that we can do this, it was the first time I felt anything like respect and admiration for the chancellor," he wrote in his post. "She didn't hesitate for a second to put her political career on the line in order to stop these people from dying at our borders. Instead, she took on this enormous challenge."
Lindemann ended his post by echoing her call for solidarity. "People are suffering and dying. Now. And we can prevent it. We can do this," he wrote.
Lindemann posted his essay on his Facebook page on Thursday evening. By mid Sunday afternoon, it had been shared more than 245,000 times. It has attracted overwhelmingly positive comments, with one user even writing that, in the midst of so many arguments against Merkel and her handling of the crisis, it has affirmed his belief that Germany is on the right path.