ALTENA, Germany – The conservative mayor of a west German town known for his open refugee policies said on Tuesday he felt happy to be alive after a knife-wielding assailant slashed his neck at a fast-food restaurant in what is suspected to be a politically-motivated attack.
On Monday evening, Andreas Hollstein, 54, was queuing at a kebab shop in Altena, a town of 17,000 in North Rhine-Westphalia, when he was approached by a reportedly drunken man who asked whether he was the town’s mayor before loudly criticizing his migrant policies and slicing his neck with a 30-centimeter (1-foot) blade.
“I was very lucky. I had some hands-on people by my side and am happy that I’m still alive,” Hollstein told reporters in Altena on Tuesday, sporting a bandage over the 15-cm laceration on the left side of his neck.
The assailant, thought to be a 56-year-old male, was overpowered by people at the scene of the attack.
Hollstein, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, gained national renown and won an award for his open migrant policies in Altena, often pushing to take in more people than required by official quotas.
According to the mayor, before launching the attack his assailant said: “You’re letting me die of thirst, but you bring 200 refugees to Altena.”
Merkel was quick to condemn the incident in a message shared by a spokesman on Twitter: “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.”
The attack against Hollstein bore similar characteristics to a knife assault on the Mayor of Cologne, Henriette Reker, in 2015, who also suffered injuries to the neck during an apparent assassination attempt, which the perpetrator later confessed was motivated by xenophobia and his opposition to the influx of refugees.