Hitler photo delivers blow to Pegida

In Pegida’s first ever press conference in Dresden on Monday, Lutz Bachmann insisted that the group was not racist, and distanced themselves from footage during a lively television debate showing Pegida demonstrators delivering racist remarks.

Bachmann has been most keen to stress his Muslim credentials, showing photographs on his Facebook site of his Turkish best man.

Meanwhile a Catholic priest who took part in a demonstration organised by the Pegida-offshoot group Dügida in the western city of Duisburg in Germany on Monday has been banned from preaching by his religious elders, after he compared the movement to the Crusades.

The head of the German anti-Islamisation has stepped down after a picture of him jokingly posing as Adolf Hitler was unearthed. Bachmann, 41, is a butcher’s son from Dresden.

Bachmann’s Facebook page, was accompanied by the line: “He’s Back,” after Timur Vermes’ best-selling 2012 satirical novel of the same name about Hitler.

The Dresden Morgenpost somehow got hold of a private Facebook conversation between Bachmann and one of his Facebook contacts, in which he described immigrants as “cattle”, “scumbags” and “trash”. The comments were posted on 19 September.

Pegida spokeswoman Kathrin Oertel, told Spiegel Online Bachmann’s resignation was the “only possibilty for the movement”.

A spokesman for Bernd Lucke, the head of the political party Alternative für Deutschland, an anti-euro party which has publicly expressed an allegiance with the aims of Pegida, said that with his “sad utterings and disgusting jokes”, Bachmann had “embarrassed the people of Pegida who have been compelled by honest concerns to take to the streets”.

Responding to the picture, Bachmann told Wednesday’s Bild: “I took the photo at the hairdresser’s, for the publication of the audiobook of the satire He’s Back … you need to be able to joke about yourself now and then”. Asked about the derogatory comments he allegedly made about immigrants, Bachmann replied: “We don’t comment about private matters.”

Bachmann, who has multiple convictions for burglary, assault and drug possession, was said by German intelligence services to be a target for Islamist terrorists who said on social media sites they intended to kill him.