Hitler selfie prompts German anti-Islam leader to quit

2015-01-22 08:39

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The head of the German anti-Islam movement Pegida resigned yesterday after the publication of a selfie in which he posed as Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler.

Lutz Bachmann’s resignation coincided with a rally by the movement in the east German city of Leipzig, where a counterprotest was also held.

City authorities said 15 000 people attended the Pegida rally, which attracted a number of counterdemonstrations with an estimated 20 000 protesters, some of whom blocked access to the anti-Islamisation event.

In the photo, which first appeared on Facebook before being removed, Bachmann appears with an Adolf Hitler toothbrush moustache and cowlick hairstyle. He also posted offensive comments toward immigrants, using terms including “livestock”, dating from September.

Bachmann apologised for harming the interests of the movement.

Pegida had been gaining momentum since October in Germany.

Pegida spokesperson and co-founder Kathrin Oertel rejected Bachmann’s comments in the “harshest” possible terms. She said his past outbursts “would not contribute to building trust” in the movement’s goals and participants.

About 4 000 police officers brought in from across Germany kept the peace during last night’s protests, the largest security deployment in Leipzig since German reunification. Leipzig was the wellspring of a citizen uprising that toppled East Germany’s communist regime in 1989.

The Leipzig march came two days after Pegida’s weekly rally in Dresden was cancelled because of Islamist death threats against founder Bachmann. He remains under police protection.

The Leipzig offshoot of Pegida, which calls itself Legida, filed an objection to a municipal order aiming to confine the procession to a few streets, rather than marching around the entire inner-city ring road. Judges rejected the appeal.

German President Joachim Gauck voiced concern at the growing split in society, which has only been heightened since Islamist attacks killed 17 people in early January in Paris.

“This polarisation undermines what has kept our country stable and predictable and what trust among the people created,” he said in Berlin.

Pegida, an acronym from the group’s German name, which translates as Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West, has laid out a 19-point plan including more selective immigration policies and steps to bar Islamists and religious fanatics from entering Germany.

Pegida leaders insist the movement is not xenophobic.

“We don’t want a revolution,” Oertel said in Dresden. “We want a different relationship between political leaders and the people.”

She said Pegida had raised issues that were “very difficult to speak about in Germany”.

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