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World

Another Leader Of Germany's Anti-Muslim Group Quits Due To "Media Pressure"

Kathrin Oertel, another leader of the Pegida movement, resigned Wednesday, a week after Lutz Bachmann quit the group when a photo of him styled as Hitler went viral.

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Oertel stepped down due to "due to the massive hostility, threats, and career disadvantages," Pegida said on its Facebook page.

The group said that "even the strongest of women" had to take a break when photographers and other strangers were sneaking around outside her house.

Four other high-ranking members also resigned with Oertel, the BBC reported.

The resignations came a week after Lutz Bachmann, the most vocal leader of the group, stepped down due to a controversial Facebook photo of him styled as Hitler.

With both its leaders gone, the group said it would choose a new board of directors within the next few days.

One of the members who quit told the German newspaper Bild that it was because of Bachmann's continuing influence and the role of Legida, Pegida's more radical sister movement in Leipzig, the BBC reported.

Lutz Bachmann, one of the leaders of Germany’s far-right anti-Muslim Pegida group, appears to be styled as Hitler in a now-viral Facebook photo sent to the Dresdener Morgenpost.

#PEGIDA-Chef #LutzBachmann als #Hitler aufgetaucht. Dazu FB-Posts in dem er Ausländer #Dreckspack nennt. @mopo24DD

MOPO24DD@MOPO24DDFollow

#PEGIDA-Chef #LutzBachmann als #Hitler aufgetaucht. Dazu FB-Posts in dem er Ausländer #Dreckspack nennt. @mopo24DD

3:11 PM - 20 Jan 15ReplyRetweetFavorite

The photo's caption read "He's back", referring to a bestselling German satirical novel on Hitler, 2012's Er ist wieder da.

UPDATE — 12:45 p.m ET: Bachmann has stepped down after the Hitler photo controversy, BBC reported Wednesday.

Leader of German "anti-Islamisation" group steps down in row over "Hitler" photo http://t.co/C6jcMiL0cD

BBC Breaking News@BBCBreakingFollow

Leader of German "anti-Islamisation" group steps down in row over "Hitler" photo http://t.co/C6jcMiL0cD

12:31 PM - 21 Jan 15ReplyRetweetFavorite

"Yes, I am stepping down from the board," Bachmann told German tabloid Bild. PEGIDA spokeswoman Kathrin Oertel confirmed his resignation to Reuters.

Bachmann said the photo, taken at a hairdresser's, was intended as a joke for the publication of Er ist wieder da.

"You need to be able to joke about yourself now and then," Bachmann told the German tabloid Bild.

Responding to the disparaging comments he made about immigrants, Bachmann said he refused to comment about "private matters". The comments prompted prosecutors to investigate Bachmann for inciting hatred.

Bachmann, 41, who founded Pegida — an acronym for "Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West" — in October last year, has reportedly been convicted for robberies, drunk-driving, and dealing drugs.

AP Jens Meyer

Lutz Bachmann delivers a speech during a Pegida rally in Dresden, eastern Germany, on Dec. 15, 2014.

According to German intelligence services, Islamist terrorists have threatened to kill Bachmann on social media sites, The Guardian reported.

A month after Bachmann's alleged anti-immigrant comments in September 2014, Pegida began to organise anti-Muslim rallies in the city of Dresden every Monday.

AP Photo/Jens Meyer

Thousands attend a Pegida rally in Dresden on Dec. 15, 2014. The banner reads "Nonviolent and united against faith wars on German soil".

The rallies now attract tens of thousands of people who gather to prevent, in their words, "the watering down" of Christianity. In December, police estimated that at least 25,000 people attended one of the rallies, its biggest crowd yet.

German political leaders including chancellor Angela Merkel have condemned the far-right group.

Merkel has said that Germany, the recipient of the largest number of asylum applications in Europe, accepted and helped an estimated 200,000 refugees last year.

She said Pegida's leaders have "prejudice, coldness, even hatred in their hearts."

LEGIDA, an organization allied with PEGIDA, is organizing a massive anti-Islamization rally in the city of Leipzig on Wednesday, NPR reported. Around 60,000 to 100,000 people are expected to attend the anti-Muslim protests which organizers said are intended to snub Islamic extremists accused of threatening Bachmann.

Tasneem Nashrulla is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Tasneem Nashrulla at tasneem.nashrulla@buzzfeed.com.

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