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Reporter's Notebook: Syrian Refugees Wait, Attempt to Build a Home in Germany

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Reporter Mark Johnson plays with girls at a medical clinic at the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan. Image by Mark Hoffman. Jordan, 2016.

BERLIN—We've spoken with Syrian refugees in Jordan and now Germany, and I always ask them where they want to go. America is not the popular destination we often like to imagine. So far, I've only met one Syrian who wanted to settle in our country.

The most common answer by far is Syria. The refugees want to go home if their country ever becomes safe again.

But the Syrian I met last night had grave doubts there will be much to return to.

Tarek, his first name, is 32. He lived in a suburb of Damascus called Jaramana and worked for a European center (he feared offering any more of a description about his employer).

"Do you think the war in Syria will stop?" Tarek said, when I asked if he hoped to go home someday. "If the war does stop, do you think it will be a good end?

"Even if it stops it won't be the same Syria that we know."

Tarif Bakdash, the Syrian-born doctor who led the recent medical mission from Wisconsin to Jordan and has come to Germany now, took a similar view.

"Unfortunately, Syria is going to be a mess for the next 50 to 100 years," he said. "I think Syria is going to take 50 years to rebuild."

We were visiting a country, Germany, that knows something about rebuilding, having faced an enormous task after World War II.

This is the country hundreds of thousand of Syrians, including Tarek, have come to in order to escape the bombing in their homeland. For now, this is where they will try to rebuild their lives.