Germany’s xenophobic PEGIDA movement drew widespread condemnation from lawmakers and Jewish groups Tuesday after a speaker at an anti-refugee rally used Nazi-era rhetoric, including a reference to concentration camps.
Prosecutors were studying whether the comments by Turkish-born German author Akif Pirincci constituted sedition. The International Auschwitz Committee slammed the remarks as a “disgusting signal of shamelessness.”
Publisher Random House said it had cancelled all contracts between its subsidiaries and Pirincci.
PEGIDA co-founder Lutz Bachmann apologized on Facebook for failing to stop the controversial writer’s speech.
Pirincci, 56, speaking to thousands of PEGIDA followers late Monday, had asserted that the government wanted German critics of its refugee policy to leave the country, to which the crowd chanted “resistance, resistance!”
The author then said that for the government “there are of course other alternatives” to get rid of its critics. “But unfortunately the KZs (concentration camps) are closed right now.”
He also labelled refugees “invaders” and charged that government leaders promoting multiculturalism behaved like “Gauleiter”, or mid-level Nazi Party functionaries, “against their own people.”
Pirincci in 1989 published the bestseller “Felidae,” a crime novel with cats as the protagonists, but has since earned notoriety for a series of pamphlets and books propagating ideas widely condemned as far-right and homophobic.
Politicians of all major parties have condemned PEGIDA, which Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel on Tuesday described as including “openly right-wing extremists,” and which Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said spread “intolerable hatred”.
Bachmann apologized on Facebook over Pirincci’s speech, saying it was “a grave mistake” not to turn off the microphone earlier.
PEGIDA — short for “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident” — started life as a xenophobic Facebook group centered around Bachmann, 42.
It staged its first street rally a year ago.
At its peak, PEGIDA attracted 25,000 at its weekly gatherings in January, before interest began to wane following anti-refugee comments by Bachmann and the surfacing of “selfies” in which he sported a Hitler mustache.
But PEGIDA has seen a revival in recent weeks as Germany expects to welcome up to a million asylum seekers this year.