On Monday evening, a reportedly drunk man approached Mayor Andreas Hollstein in a downtown kebab shop. According to German media, the man loudly criticized the mayor’s policies and asked Hollstein if he was the one before pulling out a knife.
He then stabbed 57-year-old Hollstein in the neck with a blade, local police say, causing a 15cm-long gash. He was rushed to the hospital as witnesses held the offender until police arrived. The attacker had an “alleged xenophobic motivation.”
Hollstein sustained minor injuries and was released from the hospital hours later. “I’m happy to still be alive,” he told local news.
“The security authorities believe that there was a political motive to this attack,” North Rhine-Westphalia’s CDU state premier, Armin Laschet, said. The offender commented on a migration issue, Laschet added.
Hollstein’s liberal policies towards asylum seekers have earned his city nationwide fame. Altena, with the population of some 17,300, received the National Integration Prize from Chancellor Angela Merkel for taking in extra refugees and assisting them under a special program. “I believe we are leading Germany towards a bright future – that future is diverse,” Hollstein said at the time.
However, not everybody in Altena seemed to welcome the policy. In 2015, a firefighter and his accomplice set fire to a house, into which a group of Syrians had just moved. The arsonist later admitted that he didn’t want any refugees in the neighborhood, fearing “thefts, burglaries or sexual assaults.”
Following the Monday attack on the mayor, Chancellor Merkel said she was “horrified,” via her spokesperson in a Twitter post.