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Did a "female physician in Munich" pen an alarming warning letter about refugees?

Published Oct 19, 2015

A "female physician in Munich" penned an alarming warning letter about refugees.

On 8 October 2015, the web site The Right Scoop published the above-reproduced missive as an article headlined "MUST WATCH: Whistleblower Doctor Explains HORRIFIC Reality Dealing with Muslim Invaders in Germany" — not long afterwards, verbatim versions of the same commentary began circulating in an e-mail frequently titled "A Female Physician in Munich, Germany Sends a Warning Message to The World..." The Right Scoop claimed credit for transcribing the letter from the video embedded above; but whether that translation is an accurate one is unclear. A longer version of the same clip was uploaded to YouTube on 6 October 2015, and both clips began with what appeared to be repetition of an older rumor involving refugees and Oktoberfest.

The source of the missive was apparently an on-air reading by a Czech newscaster, who recited what was said to be a letter from a Czech doctor treating immigrants in a German hospital. Its assertions were a blend of difficult-to-verify first-person claims and opinion (mixed with a measure of undiluted misinformation), its purported author was an unnamed "female physician," and a handful of its talking points were claims about incidents at an unidentified Munich hospital in the weeks following an influx of Middle Eastern refugees to Germany in September 2015. (The piece was almost certainly veiled criticism of German citizens who had welcomed asylum-seekers with open arms a few weeks prior to its circulation.)

Like earlier polemics written from the perspective of an authority figure, the occupation of the writer served to bolster the e-mail's claims and lend credibility to them — it's difficult to imagine the item's gaining such traction had it been the perspective of a barista or dog walker. The claims contained in the letter were not dated (making it easier for them to circulate in perpetuity), so verifying even the scant collection of non-opinion statements offered in the e-mail is difficult.

In its first portion the writer claimed that "Muslims" had "refused" to be treated by female doctors (and that "and, we, women, are refusing to go among those animals, especially from Africa"):

Many migrants have AIDS, syphilis, open TB and many exotic diseases that we, in Europe, do not know how to treat them. If they receive a prescription in the pharmacy, they learn they have to pay cash. This leads to unbelievable outbursts, especially when it is about drugs for the children. They abandon the children with pharmacy staff with the words: So, cure them here yourselves! So the police are not just guarding the clinics and hospitals, but also large pharmacies.

AIDS, syphilis, and tuberculosis are hardly diseases modern doctors would consider "exotic," and it beggars belief that anyone (particularly a "physician") would claim medical professionals "don't know how to treat them." There's some truth to the assertion Muslim men might eschew care from female doctors, as a 2010 New York Times article explained:

People who are non-mahram adults of the opposite sex are prohibited from being alone together in a closed place where sexual intercourse could occur or where even such an accusation could be made, [Dr. Aasim I.] Padela said. A prophetic tradition states that when a non-mahram woman and man are alone together, Satan is the “third among them,” Dr. Padela noted, so the laws prohibit not only adultery but “proximity” to adultery.

As a result, Muslim men, too, may be reluctant to be cared for by female physicians.

However, that same piece also covered the larger issue of patient comfort and bedside manner; and open contempt for patients (as expressed by the putative author of the letter from a Munich hospital) is unusual in medical settings, where most doctors and nurses are accustomed to providing care to all, whether or not those interactions are pleasant.

The Munich physician's letter also stated:

Until now, the number of unemployed in Germany was 2.2 million. Now it will be at least 3.5 million. Most of these people are completely unemployable. A bare minimum of them have any education. What is more, their women usually do not work at all. I estimate that one in ten is pregnant. Hundreds of thousands of them have brought along infants and little kids under six, many emaciated and neglected. If this continues and German re-opens its borders, I'm going home to the Czech Republic. Nobody can keep me here in this situation, not even double the salary than at home. I went to Germany, not to Africa or the Middle East.

As of July 2015 there were an estimated 2.8 million people registered as unemployed in Germany, and the author didn't cite any source for predictions that number would rise to 3.5 million based on an influx of asylum seekers. The "one in 10 is pregnant" figure is an admitted estimation by the e-mail's writer, for which we could find no corroborating evidence (and it further stands to reason that pregnant refugees would seek medical care with higher frequency than women in general, for obvious reasons). However, it should be noted that that overall claim deviated significantly from other popular refugee rumors which consistently described those seeking asylum as predominantly men of "fighting age."

The missive went on to state:

For now, the local hospital staff has not come down with the diseases they brought here, but, with so many hundreds of patients every day — this is just a question of time.

In a hospital near the Rhine, migrants attacked the staff with knives after they had handed over an 8-month-old on the brink of death, which they had dragged across half of Europe for three months. The child died in two days, despite having received top care at one of the best pediatric clinics in Germany. The physician had to undergo surgery and two nurses are laid up in the ICU. Nobody has been punished.

The notion that spikes in immigration lead to outbreaks of disease is a common theme among rumors that circulate during crises that drive large numbers of people out of a given area. Media speculation about such public health concerns inevitably follows; but (as the author conceded) those predictions have not come to pass in connection with Syrian refugees. We were unable to find any news reports that any hospital workers near the Rhine had been attacked by refugees at any point in 2015 in the manner described by the author.

The e-mail continued by stating:

The local press is forbidden to write about it, so we know about it through email. What would have happened to a German if he had stabbed a doctor and nurses with a knife? Or if he had flung his own syphilis-infected urine into a nurse's face and so threatened her with infection? At a minimum he'd go straight to jail and later to court. With these people, so far, nothing has happened.

Precisely what "it" the "local press [was] forbidden" to report was left to the reader's preconceptions (presumably the alleged attacks on medical personnel by immigrants); but news coverage about the ongoing refugee crisis wasn't subject to any blackout or other restriction (as attested to by comprehensive global news coverage of the situation). The author seemed to hint that similar e-mails were the source for the claims, accounts that proliferate on social media but don't appear in the news. However, the reason for the absence of such accounts from the news media is far more likely their dubious credibility than any sort of censorship of reporting, which itself creates a self-propelling narrative of widespread suppression.

The author of this missive concluded:

And so I ask, where are all those greeters and receivers from the train stations? Sitting pretty at home, enjoying their non-profits and looking forward to more trains and their next batch of cash from acting like greeters at the stations.

The writer seems to suggest as a footnote that the crowds of Germans who warmly received refugees weeks earlier were paid by unnamed parties, insinuating  that the sole motivation for their display of welcome was financial. As it stands, no one has stepped forward to claim authorship of the popular polemic; and a number of its assertions are shaky, unsupported, or simply opinion-based (such as the repeated description of African people as "animals"). Were there any truth to its claims, there's no demonstrable reason why that information would be subject to a "blackout" of any description; and even the conspiracy-level censorship alleged by the writing would be unlikely to stop such reports from reaching the world at large through social media and blogs.

[green-label]Variations:[/green-label] The name of Dr. Barbara Sziraki has since become attached to this message, but she appears to be a Los Angeles psychologist who simply forwarded the letter via e-mail and not a Czech physician working in Germany.


Kim LaCapria is a former writer for Snopes.

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