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In Merkel's Uncomfortable Moment, A Glimpse Of Germany's Difficult Decisions

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

A moment now of reality colliding with politics.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

At an event called Good Living in Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke with some schoolchildren.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CHANCELLOR ANGELA MERKEL: (Speaking German).

SIEGEL: A Palestinian girl who's lived in Germany for four years told Merkel that she wanted to continue her education but her family fears they will be deported.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MERKEL: (Speaking German).

CORNISH: Merkel tells her, "I understand, but politics is hard sometimes. There are thousands of Palestinians in refugee camps in Lebanon. If we say you can all come here, we can't cope with that."

A few moments later, the girl began to cry.

SIEGEL: Merkel walked over to her, stroked her gently on the shoulder and said, I know it's a difficult situation.

CORNISH: The chancellor's reaction led to a Twitter hashtag that translates as Merkel stroke. A member of the opposition Green Party tweeted, the mistakes in the government's refugee policies can't be patted away.

SIEGEL: But not everyone is critical of Merkel. Some Germans have praised her reaction, as many towns and cities are now struggling to accommodate large numbers of refugees. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.