Read

Search form

Neo-Nazi Pegida Rallies Fading In Germany, But Europe's Deadly Shootings Continue

Neo-Nazi Pegida Rallies Fading In Germany, But Europe's Deadly Shootings Continue
Mon, 2/16/2015 - by Angela Waters

BERLIN, Germany — The presence of the xenophobic Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West, or Pegida, appears to be fading in Germany thanks to the group's own slip-ups, as well as counter-demonstrators who have consistently fought to diminish its racist message.

Pegida hasn’t marched in recent Mondays, citing unsubstantiated threats of violence against its members. But the circumstances fueling the grassroots group, which at one time mobilized more than 20,000 demonstrators in Dresden and 35,000 across Germany and throughout Europe, are shared: resentment among Europeans who lack economic opportunity amid increasing cultural diversity.

Many Germans share Pegida’s concerns about the growing numbers of Muslims from Syria and elsewhere taking refuge in Europe. The Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris validated those fears even more – as did the shooting death on Saturday of a film director and a Jewish man by a young Muslim extremist in Copenhagen.

The mainstream appeal of the right-wing Pegida depended on one crucial factor: being able to say, “We’re not Nazis.” But that negative self-definition became increasingly difficult to assert after a photo appeared in late January of Pegida founder Lutz Bachmann dressed as Hitler, while the German newspaper Bild published Lutz's Facebook posts calling refugees “animals.”

Bachmann and six other key Pegida leaders, including the group's spokeswoman, Kathrin Oertel, resigned soon after the Hitleresque photos surfaced.

Prominent neo-Nazi and racist rhetoric have been common at Pegida's Monday rallies. Hooligans Against Salafists, whose anti-Islam demonstrations caused chaos in Cologne, also joined Pegida protests in multiple cities. Outside Germany, the group gained allies among members of the Islamophobic English Defence League and other European far-right groups.

Seeing Bachmann sporting parted black hair and the infamous Hitler moustache, however, confirmed the uncanny resemblance of the Dresden-based group’s xenophobic views to those of Nazi Germany – a connection that columnists, cartoonists and counter-protestors have been making since the group’s inception four months ago.

Yet despite watchdog groups' warnings about their clear Nazi overtones, and regular denunciations by Chancellor Angela Merkel and other government officials, Pegida grew quickly and even attracted a political ally in Alternative for Germany (AfD), a Eurosceptic party.

However, as Pegida's rallies reached a fever pitch following the Charlie Hebdo attack in January — the group used the Paris shootings by radical Islamists to reinforce its own anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant stance — the number of counter-demonstrators grew as well, far outnumbering Pegida supporters.

In Berlin, counter-demonstrators were 10 times as numerous as Pegida marchers, as activists drowned out the group's message with boos and chants like, “Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here.”

The counter-demonstrators reflected a kaleidoscopic image of Germany: former Olympians, cult singers, archbishops, automotive executives, authors, soccer stars, actors, rabbis and drag queens.

Yet despite the backlash, Pegida appears to remain attractive to many dissatisfied Germans and Europeans. The group is best known for its objections to Islamic influence in German society, but has also incorporated a grab bag of other grievances into its charter – including a call for more police funding, and zero-tolerance policies regarding criminal refugees.

Experts say Pegida's broad net has caught more aging, conservative East Germans who missed out on much of the economic boom enjoyed by their neighbors in the West since the Berlin Wall fell 25 years ago. However, even for those people, dressing up like Hitler apparently went too far. Hooligans against Salafism, for example, broke ties with Pegida after Bachmann’s embarrassing photos hit the press, saying the alliance distracted the group from its battle against radical Islamism.

Before Bachmann quit, Pegida in Dresden was threatening to bring legal action against Pegida in Leipzig, known as Legida, for adopting positions that clashed with the Dresden founding group’s vision. Now, Pegida is encouraging its sympathizers to attend those Leigzig rallies. It’s still not clear whether Legida and other chapters like Pegida in Dusseldorf, or Dudiga, will be joining into a consistent, broader alliance.

In Leipzig, city officials said the Legida offshoot has been banned from holding Monday demonstrations because of excessive threats of violence; police announced last Monday that 1,000 officers weren’t enough to protect the city from the frenzied xenophobic mobs who have made headlines by attacking law enforcement and journalists.

Kathrin Oertel, Pegida's former spokeswomen, has since launched a new organization called the Movement for Direct Democracy in Europe (DDfE), which she hopes will resume the Monday marches in Dresden. Distancing herself from Pegida’s racist overtones, she claims the DDfE movement will focus on political change.

During the Feb. 3 press conference in which Oertel announced the new group, she made apologies for Bachmann’s Hitler role-playing, saying he’s not the only political leader to cause a storm of protest by dressing up like the former Führer.

“The Hitler selfie, which at present is going round the world, well, it’s just a satirical picture which other politicians and prominent people have also done,” Oertel said.

So far, DDfE isn’t gaining traction. Despite a significant media build-up to the group’s first protest on Feb. 9, the march drew only a tenth of the 5,000 protestors expected, revealing what many expect to be a weaker, watered down right-wing movement that lacks the rallying power of its predecessor.

Meanwhile, Pegida is far from its former self, despite Bachman returning to the helm. Last Monday, less than 2,000 showed up for the group's demonstration.

Sign Up

Article Tabs

Twenty states, backed by Donald Trump’s Department of Justice, are trying in the courts to dismantle the law by attacking what they see as its Achilles heel: the individual mandate.

occupy, creative activism, activism, act out e165

A backlog that's symptomatic of a patriarchal system that not only devalues women but devalues survivors of sexual assault.

E.U. trade, U.S. trade war, aluminium tariffs, steel tariffs

“These tariffs aren’t even legal under U.S. law, let alone World Trade Organization laws. It seems rather odd to be citing national security and targeting countries including your closest allies.”

public banking, public banks, Bank of North Dakota, public financing, financing infrastructure, Wall Street influence, private-public investments

Private interests’ influence over banking consumes, rather than sustains, the public good.

Dodd-Frank act, Volcker Rule, bank deregulation, Wall Street lobby, proprietary trading, SEC

By revising the Volcker Rule, a centerpiece of the 2010 Dodd-Frank act, the feds are pushing financial regulation in a direction that should worry everyone.

The Trump administration has backtracked on its policy but offered no immediate plan for reuniting families. Photograph: Guillermo Arias/AFP/Getty Images

NGOs say bringing parents and children back together is an enormous puzzle with no clear system from the administration.

EPA, pollution deaths, pollution risks, Donald Trump, Scott Pruitt, respiratory illness

The authors used EPA’s own risk assessments to estimate the number of illnesses and early deaths prevented by clean air and water rules Trump is now trying to erase.

The Associated Press reports that young migrant children forcibly separated from their parents are being sent to facilities that critics described as "prisons for babies." (Photo: @NIJC/Twitter)

Those who have visited the facilites describe "play rooms of crying preschool-age children in crisis."

Twenty states, backed by Donald Trump’s Department of Justice, are trying in the courts to dismantle the law by attacking what they see as its Achilles heel: the individual mandate.

wage theft, corporate crimes, CEO pay,

An eye-opening new report has documented billions of dollars of corporate theft from workers. The government is turning a blind eye.

public banking, public banks, Bank of North Dakota, public financing, financing infrastructure, Wall Street influence, private-public investments

Private interests’ influence over banking consumes, rather than sustains, the public good.

Posted 6 days 20 hours ago
E.U. trade, U.S. trade war, aluminium tariffs, steel tariffs

“These tariffs aren’t even legal under U.S. law, let alone World Trade Organization laws. It seems rather odd to be citing national security and targeting countries including your closest allies.”

Posted 5 days 16 hours ago
U.S. Border Patrol agents take into custody a father and son from Honduras near the U.S.-Mexico border on June 12, 2018, near Mission, Texas. The asylum seekers were then sent to a processing center for possible separation. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

A new report confirms that Trump and his advisers had been considering the brutal policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the border for as long as they’ve been in power.

Posted 6 days 21 hours ago
The Trump administration has backtracked on its policy but offered no immediate plan for reuniting families. Photograph: Guillermo Arias/AFP/Getty Images

NGOs say bringing parents and children back together is an enormous puzzle with no clear system from the administration.

Posted 2 days 23 hours ago
family separations, ICE, immigrant deportations,

The size and brutality of this particular raid in Ohio, along with the use of military tactics, have shocked even the most seasoned immigrants’ rights activists.

Posted 5 days 21 hours ago
The Trump administration has backtracked on its policy but offered no immediate plan for reuniting families. Photograph: Guillermo Arias/AFP/Getty Images

NGOs say bringing parents and children back together is an enormous puzzle with no clear system from the administration.

family separations, ICE, immigrant deportations,

The size and brutality of this particular raid in Ohio, along with the use of military tactics, have shocked even the most seasoned immigrants’ rights activists.

wage theft, corporate crimes, CEO pay,

An eye-opening new report has documented billions of dollars of corporate theft from workers. The government is turning a blind eye.

occupy, creative activism, activism, act out e165

A backlog that's symptomatic of a patriarchal system that not only devalues women but devalues survivors of sexual assault.

Twenty states, backed by Donald Trump’s Department of Justice, are trying in the courts to dismantle the law by attacking what they see as its Achilles heel: the individual mandate.