The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

German head of ‘anti-Islamization’ group quits after photo shows him posing like Hitler

Lutz Bachmann speaks during a news conference by the group Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West (PEGIDA) in Dresden, Germany, on Jan. 19. (Jens Meyer/AP)

Lutz Bachmann, the German leader of "Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West," (PEGIDA) has resigned after a picture emerged apparently showing him dressed up and posing like Adolf Hitler.

The photo, published on the front page of the German tabloid Bild, reportedly came from Bachmann's Facebook account. The BBC quotes a PEGIDA movement spokesman as saying the photo was intended as a "joke."

PEGIDA co-founder Kathrin Oertel confirmed the resignation to Reuters: "Yes, I can confirm that Lutz Bachmann has offered his resignation and it was accepted," she said, adding that the movement "will go on." However, Ortel told Reuters that the resignation was not over the Hitler photo but instead concerning comments Bachmann posted on the Internet.

In a later statement posted to PEGIDA's Facebook page, Bachmann apologized "to all citizens who feel offended by my posts."

Bachmann reportedly wrote "he's back" as a caption on the Facebook post containing the Hitler-themed photo.

Bachmann, a convicted burglar who helped found the anti-Islamization movement in October,  has served as the public face of the group since then. The movement is probably best known for a series of  large, weekly, anti-Islam rallies in Germany. One Dresden protest drew as many as 25,000 participants. Some, but not all, of the demonstrations have been met by larger groups of counter-protests.

On Monday, Bachmann's group canceled a rally after a threat was made against the controversial leader.

As the movement grew, Bachmann and other leaders struggled to distance it from the country's other hard-line right wingers. The Financial Times spotlighted that tension in a piece on the movement last week, noting that one Berlin protest was peppered with shouts of  "Deutschland den Deutschen," or "Germany for Germans," and that others at the protest made anti-Semitic remarks.

Earlier Wednesday, PEGIDA organizer Rene Jahn told the AP that the movement's leaders were meeting over the Hitler photograph, which first appeared among a handful of other controversial posts attributed to Bachmann in the German magazine Dresdener Morgenpost.

The Morgenpost also published an image that shows Bachmann sharing a photo of a Ku Klux Klan member, captioned in English to read, "Three k's a day keeps the minorities away." The Morgenpost's anonymous source also sent the paper a Facebook conversation that appears to be with Bachmann, in which the leader calls immigrants "cattle" and "scumbags."

The resignation comes on the same day as a planned anti-Islamization rally in Leipzig, Germany, that organizers — including PEGIDA — hope will attract more than 60,000 supporters.

[this post has been updated]