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Small town mayor stabbed at kebab shop over pro-refugee stance

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday condemned a near fatal knife attack against a town mayor, apparently motivated by the local leader's pro-refugee stance and which left him with a six-inch neck wound.

Small town mayor stabbed at kebab shop over pro-refugee stance
Andreas Hollstein. Photo: DPA

Andreas Hollstein, 54, mayor of the western town of Altena, was stabbed Monday evening at a kebab shop by a man who had loudly criticised his liberal refugee policy.

Hollstein said that without two shop employees who rushed to help him, he would “probably not be here today”.

With a large bandage on his neck and a wavering voice, Hollstein told reporters that the 56-year-old male assailant had asked him if he was the mayor before pulling the knife and then said: “You let me die of thirst and take in 200 refugees in Altena.”

Merkel, who has faced a strong backlash over her welcoming stance toward refugees, was “horrified” by the attack on Hollstein and “very relieved that he was already able to return to his family,” her spokesman Steffen Seibert tweeted. “Thanks also to those who helped him.”

Hollstein, a member of Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU), said that he believed “a coarsening of the public debate about refugees” had led to the assault.

“I even received emails today approving of the attack — that says something about the state of our country,” he said, adding that he and his family had received repeated threats in recent years.

Hollstein said the attacker appeared to be under the influence of alcohol but was by no means incapacitated, noting it had taken three men to overpower him.

The assailant was arrested at the scene while Hollstein was taken to a local hospital and, after treatment, released hours later, police said in a statement, referring to an “apparent xenophobic motive”.

'Like a good mayor should'

The snack shop owner, Demir Abdullah, who came to Hollstein's aid along with his son, who was also injured in the attack, confirmed the assailant had specifically targeted Hollstein.

“He asked 'are you the mayor?'… then he reached for his knife and stabbed him in the neck,” Abdullah told German television.

The town of about 17,000 people was well known for taking in a larger share of asylum seekers than required amid the mass influx that has brought more than one million migrants and refugees to Germany since 2015.

Hollstein, whose town won a national award in May for its work with refugees, said Altena had welcomed about 450 people and said he had no plans to reverse his stance.

“I'm going to continue to work for refugees, for those who are already here and for those who are still arriving, for the weak and the strong in our society, like a good mayor should,” he said.

Justice Minister Heiko Maas tweeted that “we must never accept that people are attacked because they help others,” adding that there was no space “for hate and violence” in Germany.

The assault revived memories of a knife attack on Cologne's mayor Henriette Reker in October 2015 by a right-wing extremist who was angered at her welcoming stance toward refugees.

The brutal attack came at the height of the influx to Germany, where sentiment is still deeply divided on the country's humanitarian responsibilities and its ability to integrate newcomers.

While most mainstream parties back the principle of Germany taking in people fleeing warzones such as Syria, the backlash led the far-right Alternative for Germany party to win its first seats in parliament in September's general election.

Although Merkel won a fourth term in the poll, the AfD's presence has severely complicated her efforts to cobble together a ruling coalition.

The AfD scored nearly 12 percent of the vote in Altena's electoral district, just below the 13 percent it drew nationally.

CULTURE

Pay women footballers the same as men, says German chancellor

Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Tuesday made a push for equal pay for men and women international footballers after Germany's successful run at the recent European Championships.

Pay women footballers the same as men, says German chancellor

“My position on this is clear,” Scholz said after a meeting with the German Football Association (DFB) to discuss the issue.

“We talked about how we can continue to help more girls and women get excited about football. Of course, the wages at such tournaments play a major role in this,” he said.

“That’s why it makes sense to discuss equal pay. I made the suggestion and I’m very grateful that there is a willingness to discuss this issue.”

Germany scored their biggest major tournament success since 2015 at this year’s European Championships, losing to England in the final at Wembley.

Scholz attended the final and also supported the women’s team by tweeting: “It’s 2022, and women and men should be paid equally. This also applies to sport, especially for national teams.”

READ ALSO: Scholz to cheer on Germany at Euro 2022 final

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) visits the DFP headquarters on Tuesday.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) visits the DFP (German Football Association) headquarters on Tuesday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Gollnow

Germany’s women would have received €60,000 each if they had triumphed at the tournament, while the men would have received €400,000 each had they prevailed at the Euros last year.

Bernd Neuendorf, president of the DFB, said he understood the argument “that equal work and success should also have the same value”.

“I’m willing to discuss in our committees whether our payment system is up to date or whether it should be adjusted,” he said.

Germany coach Martina Voss-Tecklenburg suggested that international footballers’ wages could be evened out by paying women more and men less.

Officials must now “follow up with action” after the meeting, she said in an interview with the ZDF broadcaster.

Scholz said he was “very, very proud” of the women’s performance at the Euros, even if “it didn’t quite work out”.

“I hope it will have a long-lasting effect, not only on the players themselves… but also on football in Germany,” he said.

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