Pegida leader Lutz Bachmann has stepped down after a photo of him posing as Adolf Hitler on his personal Facebook profile went viral after being posted online by the Dresden Morgenpost.
Bachmann’s resignation comes as German prosecutors have opened an investigation into his social media posts for “incitement to popular hatred” according to Dresden state prosecutors.
The photograph, which was taken before Pegida grew into prominence, shows Bachmann with slicked down hair and a Toothbrush moustache appeared above the caption “He’s back!”
Morgenpost also published screen grabs of racist posts by Bachmann’s on his Facebook profile including ones calling refugees “animals” and “scumbags” and a photo from 2012 of a Ku Klux Klan member accompanied by the slogan: “Three Ks a day keeps the minorities away.”
41 year-old convicted criminal Bachmann, who insists Pegida are “normal people” who seek tighter immigration controls and “protection of Judeo-Christian culture“, deleted his Facebook profile after being contacted by Morgenpost.
Bachmann told German newspaper Bild that he had created the image as a homage to German comedian Cristoph Maria Herbst’s audiobook version of Timur Vermes bestselling satirical novel “He’s Back” which tells the story of Adolf Hitler waking up in a Berlin parking lot in 2011 with no recollection of his past.
Bachmann claims that the picture had been shared by Herbst himself online and that “sometimes you just have to go along for the ride.“
The German far-right anti-immigrant Pegida (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamification of the West) started to grow into prominence in October 2014 after staging weekly anti-Islam demonstrations drawing thousands to the east German city of Dresden.
Recent protests in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack have drawn crowds of over 25,000 people, sparking counter demonstrations across the country.
Pegida has been condemned by a broad section of German society with justice minister Heiko Maas calling the protests “simply disgusting” and by German chancellor Angela Merkel in her New Year’s address as being “full of prejudice, a chilliness, even hatred“.
However, Merkel was forced to back Pegida’s right to protest after local police banned all rallies held in the city after being informed of death threats made against members of the group.
Racial tensions have been running high in Dresden since Pegida began demonstrating.
Recently a 20 year-old Eritrean refugee Khalid Idris Bahray was stabbed to death in the city hours after a Pegida demonstration. Bahray was attacked just days after a swastika was allegedly daubed on his door with the message “we will get you all”.
Many people have taken to social media to blame the group for inciting racial hatred, prompting Pegida spokeswoman Kathrin Oertel to say: “We are against extremism in any shape or form. If there is resentment on the streets of Dresden, it was there before we existed.”