Pro-refugee German mayor stabbed in kebab shop

A German politician well known for his pro-refugee policies was stabbed in the neck at a kebab shop Monday evening.

Andreas Hollstein, the mayor of the western German town of Altena, told a news conference on Tuesday that his assailant, who was also a customer, held a foot-long knife to his throat.

“He said: ‘You are leaving me die of thirst while you bring 200 refugees to Altena,'” Hollstein told reporters.

“I pushed the knife away, which didn’t work out too well as I have a cut on my throat. I was very lucky as the two owners of the kebab shop came to help me push the attacker to the ground,” Hollstein said. Police then arrived and arrested the assailant.

The incident comes amid a political crisis in the country following recent elections that paved the way for the far-right Alternative for Germany party to enter Parliament for the first time.

The party campaigned against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision two years ago to welcome more than a million refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Talks to form a new coalition government are proving difficult.

In September CNN visited Altena and interviewed Hollstein about the decision to welcome refugees to the town.

Merkel called Hollstein, who is a member of her Christian Democratic Union party, to wish him a speedy recovery, according to her spokesman Steffen Seibert.

German police said the 56-year-old attacker, identified only as Werner S., had been drinking.

He was known to authorities because of a minor violent assault in 2013 and also a traffic incident, but so far no connections to the organized far-right have been established, police said.

Hollstein blamed the attack on hate propaganda circulating on social media. “The handling of the subject of refugees is getting tougher and more ruthless, if they ask me about it, I see this as a decline in values in our society,” he said.

“I think that the poison that people spread on social media or other platforms enters into simple minds; as such, I would also designate the culprit. I have no hatred for these people. For me he has been a tool for others.”

It is not the first time the small steel town has witnessed refugee-related violence.

When Altena was deciding whether or not to accept additional refugees, a young man hurled a firebomb into the home of a Syrian family, damaging the dwelling and sending its inhabitants to the hospital for smoke inhalation.

Henriette Reker, the current mayor of Cologne, who was also stabbed two years ago for pro-refugee policies and suffered life-threatening injuries, issued a statement in support of Hollstein.

“Such an attack changes your life, but it must not change our behavior and commitment,” she said.

“We have to continue addressing our tasks with openness and strength. Hate and violence are not solutions — they are the problem.”