The mayor of a small German town says he is happy to be alive after being attacked with a knife by a man who confronted him over his welcoming stance towards refugees, before slashing his neck.
The knife attack on Andreas Hollstein, the 54-year-old mayor of Altena in western Germany, prompted widespread shock and condemnation from officials including Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Authorities said the incident on Monday night was probably politically motivated.
“I’m shocked by the knife attack on mayor Andreas Hollstein — and very relieved that he is back with his family,” Mrs Merkel said. “Thanks also to those who helped him.”
The attacker was identified only as a 56-year-old German man and was described as drunk by local media.
Mr Hollstein, a father of four and a member of Mrs Merkel’s conservative party, appeared shaken as he answered reporters’ questions the day after the attack.
“I feared for my life,” he said adding that it appeared the man had intentionally chosen him as a victim.
“If you ask me whether that knife in his pocket was for me, I’d answer with a yes,” he said.
The mayor said he was at a local kebab restaurant when the attacker approached him, held a knife to his throat and took him to task over his policies towards refugees.
It was only with the help of the restaurant’s owner and his son that the man was overpowered, and police later made an arrest
Mr Hollstein was taken to hospital but discharged later on Monday. He said he had a 6in cut on the left side of his neck.
The mayor became known nationally for voluntarily taking in more asylum seekers than Altena was obliged to since the height of the refugee crisis two years ago.
He said his attacker had probably been incited by the poisoned atmosphere fuelled by parties such as the nationalist Alternative for Germany, which has campaigned against migrants and their supporters.
But Mr Hollstein said the attack would not deter him from continuing to stand up for refugees and others who needed his support.