German anti-Islam group loses second leader in a week

Kathrin Oertel quits as chief of PEGIDA, along with another board member, citing "massive hostility and threats".

    Kathrin Oertel had become PEGIDA's national figurehead after founder Lutz Bachmann quit last week [AFP]
    Kathrin Oertel had become PEGIDA's national figurehead after founder Lutz Bachmann quit last week [AFP]

    German anti-Islam movement PEGIDA has lost its second leader just a week after the group's founder resigned amid reports that he had posed as Adolf Hitler.

    Kathrin Oertel stepped down along with another board member on Wednesday, citing media pressure. PEGIDA, based in the eastern city of Dresden, announced the resignations on its Facebook page.

    The 37-year-old Oertel had become PEGIDA's national figurehead after founder Lutz Bachmann quit last week.

    PEGIDA, or the Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West, said Oertel had resigned "due to the massive hostility, threats and career disadvantages".

    "Even the strongest of women has to take time out when at night photographers and other strange figures are sneaking around outside her house," the group said.

    It added that its cause remained "good and just".

    Bachmann announced his resignation last Wednesday after Germany’s top-selling paper Bild carried a front-page photo of him with a Hitler moustache and haircut that he had posted on Facebook.

    This, and reports that he had called refugees "scumbags", prompted prosecutors to investigate him for inciting hatred.

    The 42-year-old convicted burglar put PEGIDA onto the political agenda by leading weekly rallies to defend what he calls German values.

    PEGIDA marches and copycat events in other cities attracted thousands of people, but they were vastly outnumbered by tens of thousands of counter-demonstrators insisting Germany is a multi-cultural country that welcomes immigrants.

    Oertel had told the Reuters news agency that PEGIDA "will go on" despite the departure of Bachmann, who said the Hitler photo was taken as a joke. In a recent interview with Reuters, he described himself as an "impulsive" person.


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