Anti-Islam leader quits over posts
The leader of a German organisation which is opposed to the perceived "Islamisation" of Europe has stepped down and apologised after online comments surfaced where he defaced refugees as "cattle" and "filthy".
Lutz Bachmann, co-founder of the Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West, or Pegida, said in a statement on Facebook today that he was sorry for offending anyone with his postings. He called them "ill-considered comments that I wouldn't make in this way today".
He also apologised for harming the movement, which has staged weekly demonstrations in the eastern city of Dresden that reached their peak last week, drawing 25,000 people.
Bachmann did not comment directly on a picture, published today by top-selling tabloid Bild, showing him sporting a Hitler moustache and with his hair combed over like the Fuhrer.
Pegida spokeswoman Kathrin Oertel said the picture had been satire, but the comments about refugees and German politicians had not "contributed to the trustworthiness" of the group.
However, if it was a joke, nobody was laughing.
"Anyone in politics who poses as Hitler is either a total idiot or a Nazi," Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel told Bild, taking the opportunity to reiterate the government's call for people to stay away from Pegida's weekly demonstrations in Dresden.
"Reasonable people do not follow idiots, and decent people don't follow Nazis," he said.
Pegida's regular weekly rally in Dresden was cancelled on Monday after police said authorities had monitored a tweet calling for one of the organisers to be killed.
Elsewhere, the Bishop of Muenster, Felix Genn, said he had withdrawn a priest's right to preach or speak on behalf of the church for comments he made about Islam. Father Paul Spaetling had taken part in a Pegida offshoot's rally in the western city of Duisburg on Monday.