Thanks for the advice, I reached out to US ebay reps who advised me to ask for pictures of the damage. The buyer said he cleaned the shoes with Saphir and under the "dirt and wax layers" there was a big tear in the leather. Also said that the shipping box was undamaged and dry. Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Here is the pictures of the damage that he sent: Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Here is how the shoes looked when I sent them: Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
No idea what happened to the shoes on the way between here and the re-shipper and then Germany, but that tear doesn't look like the kind of thing that would be hidden by wax (and doesn't show on any of the auction pictures either.)
Any advice on where I go from here? Is ebay likely to side with me since he said he cleaned the shoes and I have no idea what he actually did to them?
Call and speak with eBay. There are 2 ways I would ask the ebay rep to close the case in your favor.
1) the item has been altered by him saying he cleaned the shoes which voids the ebay buyer protection
2) using a re-shipper (depending on if they are a legit ebay reshipping) voids the buyer protection due to the item being shipped to a 3rd party and there is no way to tell what the reshipper did to them.