Berlin, Jan 22: The leader of a German organization against the perceived "Islamisation" of Europe has stepped down after online posts surfaced in which he used derogatory language to refer to refugees and posed looking like Adolf Hitler.
Lutz Bachmann, co-founder of the Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West, or PEGIDA, announced his departure on Facebook after German media published the comments where he called refugees "cattle" and "filthy," and a photo showing him with a Hitler mustache and hair combed over like the Nazi Fuehrer.
Bachmann didn't comment directly on the picture, but apologized for the anti-refugee comments, which he made online in September, a month before the group staged its first protest.
"I earnestly apologize to all citizens, who felt attacked by my postings," Bachmann said in a statement on the group's Facebook page.
"They were ill-considered comments that I wouldn't make in this way today," he said, expressing regret for harming the movement, which has taken pains to distance itself from neo-Nazi groups.
The group has staged weekly demonstrations in the eastern city of Dresden that reached their peak last week, drawing 25,000 people.
This week's planned rally was canceled after police said authorities had monitored a Tweet calling for one of the organizers to be killed. PEGIDA's spokeswoman, Kathrin Oertel said the Hitler picture had been satire, but Bachmann's comments about refugees and others he made about German politicians hadn't "contributed to the trustworthiness" of the group.
Bild quoted Bachmann as saying he had posted the Hitler picture on his Facebook page, apparently some time ago, as a joke. "One has to be able sometimes to make fun of oneself," he said.