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German police officer taking care of a baby refugee / migrant at Munich main train station on 01 September, 2015. Photograph: dasWerk Michael Mitrenga und Maike Zimmermann GbR / Getty Ima ges
When, in 2015, Angela Merkel opened Germany’s doors to a wave of refugees bigger than any seen in Europe since the war, she divided opinion at home and caused consternation among her country’s neighbours. Merkel would pay a big political price. She was forced to bring forward the date of her retirement.
She was attacked for showing naivete but also for the opposite: behind her act of compassion, her detractors claimed, was a cold political calculation that welcoming migrants from the east could help offset the long-term demographic problems presented by Germany’s ageing population while, more immediately, averting the irreparable EU split that seemed a real prospect in those tumultuous days.