The mayor of the German town of Altena has been stabbed, in what appears to be a political attack.
Andreas Hollstein, 57, was struck in the neck while in a kebab shop.
Witnesses said the attacker criticised the mayor’s pro-refugee policy during the stabbing. The attack was stopped by Demir Abdullah, the shop owner, and his son.
Hollstein was lightly injured on his neck after the assailant put a large knife on his throat.
“You let me die of thirst but you bring 200 refugees to Altena,” the attacker said, according to Hollstein.
“I was lucky the shop owners helped me,” he said during a press conference.
“They risked their own lives by doing so. I’m sure that if they hadn’t reacted like that, I wouldn’t be alive.”
The attacker is being prosecuted for attempted murder.
Altena, a city with about 17,000 inhabitants, has been very welcoming to refugees coming to Germany, taking in more refugees than the quota set and using the slogan: “From refugee to fellow citizen” as a way to promote its open policy.
Hollstein, member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU party, has been part of the driving force behind this pro-refugee stance.
In May, he received an award from Merkel for his part in integrating refugees into German society.
On Twitter, Merkel condemned the attack, saying she was appalled by the event. “I’m very relieved he can be with his family again. Thank you to those who have helped him.”
Kanzlerin #Merkel: „Ich bin entsetzt über den Messerangriff auf Bürgermeister Andreas Hollstein – und sehr erleichtert, dass er schon wieder bei seiner Familie sein kann. Dank auch an die, die ihm geholfen haben.“ #Altena
— Steffen Seibert (@RegSprecher) November 28, 2017
During the press conference, Hollstein cautioned against hate in the political discourse, saying: “Hate doesn’t get us anywhere. Getting this message across is important to me.”
He said he felt the social climate had hardened but that these risks had to be taken into consideration.
However, Hollstein said police protection was out of the question. “I can’t do my job with police protection,” he said.
His sentiment was echoed by Germany’s justice minister, Heiko Maas. He said on Twitter that attacks on others, especially when they are helping people, should never be accepted.
“Our country should not tolerate hate and violence,” Hollstein added.
Schreckliche Nachricht aus Altena. Gute Besserung, BM Andreas Hollstein @Hollstein63. Dürfen niemals akzeptieren, dass Menschen attackiert werden, nur weil sie anderen helfen. In unserem Land darf kein Platz sein für Hass und Gewalt. https://t.co/8GBqqEEjJe
— Heiko Maas 🇪🇺 (@HeikoMaas) November 27, 2017
The CDU has drawn a lot of criticism over the last couple of years for its open stance regarding refugees.
It won last September’s elections, but saw far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party gain many seats in parliament.
The AfD is known for its strong anti-refugee stance.
In 2015, Cologne’s mayor, Henriette Reker, was stabbed in a similar incident. She was severely injured, but survived. Last year, her attacker was sentenced to 14 years in jail.