German pro-refugee mayor undaunted by knife attack

Berlin: The mayor of a small town in Germany is recovering from stab wounds after a man attacked him for his pro-refugee policy.

The incident happened on Monday in a kebab shop in Altena where Mayor Andreas Hollstein had gone to buy dinner for his ailing wife.

Suddenly, a man in his 50s approached Hollstein and asked him whether he was the mayor and why he let him die of thirst while admitting 200 refugees to Altena. He then drew a knife from his pocket and stabbed Hollstein in the neck.

“Yes, the knife was meant for me,” Hollstein, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU), told reporters hours after his release from hospital.

The attack was premeditated as the man was angry over his pro-refugee policy, the mayor said.

The kebab shop owner, Demir Abdullah, who came to Hollstein’s rescue along with his son, confirmed that the assailant wanted to target the mayor.

Police described the assault as politically motivated. The man is suspected of having a xenophobic motive. He was charged with bodily harm in 2013. Hollstein said the man was drunk but in control of himself.

Merkel tweeted she was horrified by the attack but relieved to know that her colleague is back home.

Like many leaders of CDU, Hollstein too had received many hate mails attacking the party’s pro-refugee policy. After Monday’s attack, he received more mails defending the attacker.

Hollstein has accommodated up to 450 refugees in his town of 17,000 people. The town had won an award in May for its work with refugees and the mayor wants to continue that.

Justice Minister Heiko Maas tweeted that there is no space “for hate and violence” in Germany.

Two years back, Cologne’s mayor Henriette Reker faced a similar attack by a right-wing extremist.