The Mayor of a small town in Germany known for its liberal refugee policy has been injured in a knife attack by a man making anti-immigrant statements. The attack took place in a kebab shop in the town of Altena near Dortmund. According to witnesses a man who was described a visibly drunk approached the mayor, Andreas Hollstein, confirmed his identity and complained that he was letting too many foreigners into Altena, before producing a 13 in blade and stabbing the mayor in the neck. His injuries were not life threatening and he was released from hospital a few hours after being admitted.
The assailant, who has been named as Werner S. was arrested at the scene. Police said he has a record of mental health problems and is not thought to have any connections to far-right groups, but they are treating the attack as politically motivated.
Altena made headlines in 2015 for accepting 450 refugees – 100 more than it was allocated – and for housing them in apartments rather than hostels. Each refugee family was also assigned a mentor to help them settle in. Earlier this year, Altena won an award for its model approach to integrating asylum seekers. At the award ceremony, Hollstein, who belongs to Angela Merkel’s CDU party, told the audience: “I believe we are leading Germany towards a bright future – that future is diverse.”
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, as he wore a white bandage over the 15 cm wound on his neck, Hollstein said he feared for his life during the attack but thanked the kebab shop owner and his son for their quick response. “If it hadn’t been for them, I would not be here today,” he said.
Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose open door policy during the height of the refugee crisis in 2015 stoked a far-right backlash that saw the anti-immigrant AFD party win nearly 13 percent of the vote earlier this year, expressed her shock at the attack. I am horrified by the knife attack on the mayor Andreas Hollstein – and very relieved that he can already be back with his family. Thanks also to those who helped him,” she said via a spokesperson on Twitter.