By Jake Wallis Simons
The most powerful woman in far-Right Germany has made an extraordinary call for the public to ‘forget about decency’ and fight the ‘sex-jihad’ she claims is being waged against Western women.
In an exclusive interview with MailOnline, Tatjana Festerling, 51, the second-in-command of the anti-Islam group Pegida, said ‘political correctness’ was putting women and gay men at risk of assault.
In a vicious attack on Muslim migrants and the political elite, she said: ‘Germany is like an open-air psychiatric ward with the mental illness of political correctness.
'We don’t have time for decency any more. If we don’t grab our pitchforks and fight the Islamisation of Europe, we are lost.'
Her comments, in a video for MailOnline, will cause concern that a resurgent far-Right is exploiting migration to whip up racist hatred.
Accompanied by a bodyguard at a cafe in central Dresden, Festerling told MailOnline:
’Pegida are the only ones who don’t care about being politically correct. We just don’t care. We have no scruples and no fear.
‘We are on the rise all over the world, regaining territory that was lost to political correctness.
‘The Muslim headscarf should be banned, and radical mosques should be closed. We need to make life uncomfortable for them.
'Migrants should be forced to register at police stations, and ultimately we need to look at deportation. If they keep crossing the border and you can't arrest them, shoot them.'
Germany’s ‘refugees welcome culture’ is like a cult, she said, with anti-migrant voices being suppressed by an out-of-touch political elite. She continued:
‘In peaceful times, we Germans like to be decent and behave nicely to foreigners. But in times like these, we need to forget about decency.
'F*** decency. This fight against Islamisation is the last battle.’
Her inflammatory remarks followed a week in which Pegida – a German acronym for Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West – led demonstrations across the globe, a number of which turned violent.
Experts fear that the escalation in rhetoric marks a 'gear-shift' on the far-Right, raising fears of further unrest around the continent.
‘People are on the verge of panic about mass immigration, and Pegida is trying to capitalise on that,’ said Vidhya Ramalingam, a Fellow at the German Institute on Radicalisation and De-Radicalisation Studies (GIRDS).
‘It’s a very dangerous moment, because when people feel out of control they resort to violence.’
Festerling went on to compare the Left’s supportive attitude towards migrants to ‘Stockholm Syndrome’.
‘Even as the migrants are committing sex-jihad against women and homosexual men, the Leftists are offering them roses,’ she said.
‘They care more about young Muslim men than they do about their own women. They are infatuated with their own abusers.’
She continued: ‘I like hooligans. Hooligans have my respect. They have protected Pegida rallies right from the beginning against the brutal leftists.
‘I can understand why a man becomes a hooligan. It’s a rebellion against what I call “nipple socialism”, our feminised culture that promotes women and Muslims and wages war on white men.’
The Islamisation of Europe was ‘already underway’, she added, with churches being forced to remove crucifixes, pork being banned in kindergartens, Sharia police roaming the streets, and the whole of western Germany run as a ‘caliphate’.
'Islam is a twisted ideology,' she claimed.
A Pegida leader who defected from the group last year because it had become ‘too extreme’ branded Festerling’s claims ‘a pack of lies’.
‘Churches are not being turned into mosques. West Germany is not a caliphate. Kindergartens are not banned from serving pork, and there is no Sharia police,’ Rene Jahn, 50, told MailOnline.
‘I know how Pegida works. People like Tatjana Festerling search for a few extreme, isolated examples and exaggerate them, saying that it is like this in all of Germany. They are just trying to whip up panic.’
In response, Festerling branded Jahn an 'attention seeker' and a 'narcissist'.
When challenged about the truth of her allegations, the far-Right leader said that the media, police and political classes knowingly cover up negative stories about migrants.
‘The Cologne police chief lost his job for pretending that the sex attacks were not perpetrated by migrants, and he is not a unique case,’ she said. ‘The authorities and the lying press have lost all credibility. We are telling the truth.’
Inflammatory rhetoric is fast becoming common currency on the German far-Right, as the political climate overheats in response to the migrant crisis.
Last month, Franke Petry, the leader of the far-Right AfD party suggested that the borders should be closed and migrant infiltrators shot.
A survey found that AfD support had jumped to 12 per cent following these remarks, making it the third largest party in Germany.
Festerling - who has been fined in court for falsifying claims against migrants - echoed Petry’s comments. ‘Our borders should be closed and infiltrators should be arrested or, as a last resort, shot,’ she told MailOnline.
‘It’s about fences, it’s about infrastructure, it’s about the military. You have to be serious if you want to be taken seriously.'
Festerling joined Pegida in 2014, after being sacked from her job as a PR manager at a transport company for supporting a coalition of football firms called Hooligans Against Salafists.
She also lost her position in the populist AfD party, and turned to the more radical Pegida, where she replaced another female leader, Kathrin Oertel.
In a matter of weeks, she rose through the ranks to become the group’s second-in-command.
Last month, a court fined Festerling €500 after she wrongly claimed that an attack on a journalist at a Pegida demonstration had been fabricated.
The police have also opened an investigation into allegations that she incited violence by calling on Germans to ‘pick up their pitchforks’ – a statement she repeated to MailOnline.
As fears about immigrants have become more mainstream, there has been a noticeable escalation in Pegida’s belligerence.
Last week, the Pegida leader Lutz Bachmann wrote a Facebook post in which he appeared to call for local politicians to be lynched, using the hashtags ‘#RopeIsGoingToBecomeExpensive’ and ‘#TheHigherTheBetter’.
Experts fear that this represents 'a new sense of self-confidence' on the far-Right in the wake of the immigrant sex attacks.
Like many far-Right movements, Pegida has been beset by infighting. Last year, a number of senior members lost their nerve and left the group, with one apologising to Muslims in a video message.
Yet its aggressive stance towards the government and migrants strikes a chord with an increasing number of disenfranchised Germans, particularly white men, who are driving the resurgence of the far-Right across the continent.
Launched in October 2014 to oppose ‘the Islamisation of Europe’, Pegida has expanded into other countries, including Austria, Belgium, Holland and Britain, though some of the numbers may be small.
In Dresden, where the group was founded, it regularly attracts up to 5,000 supporters to its Monday night rallies.
Last week, the group staged demonstrations around the world under the monicker ‘Fortress Europe’.
Demonstrations took place as far afield as Australia, and 200 Pegida supporters led by Tommy Robinson, the former leader of the English Defence League (EDL), marched silently in Birmingham.
Festerling herself took part in a rally in Warsaw, where she launched the Polish branch of Pegida in front of a 2,000-strong crowd, including a number of skinheads from the radical Right.
‘After my speech, the hooligans set off red fireworks. It was beautiful,’ Festerling told MailOnline. ‘The hooligans are allowed to act freely there. There are many patriotic people in Poland.’
Her brazen support for ‘hooligans’ has positioned Festerling firmly at the forefront of Germany’s far-Right. It also allows her to carry out her provocative activities with a constant stream of volunteer bodyguards.
Last year her front door was glued shut and smashed, and posters advertising her home address and telephone number were posted around Hagen, her hometown.
Recently, Festerling has tried to court legitimacy by campaigning to become mayor of Dresden, winning a surprise 9.6 per cent of the vote before withdrawing.
Yet she has consistently refused to tone down her rhetoric, even when under criminal investigation.
Her latest comments will infuriate people who refuse to buy in to fears about mass migration - and those who fear the far-Right is exploiting migration to whip up hatred.
At the same time, however, they are designed to appeal to a growing unease among mainstream voters who are not connected to the far-Right.
According to Germany’s Federal Office of Migration and Refugees, 476,649 people sought asylum in 2015. And the numbers appear to be rising: in January alone, there were more than 50,000.
Political conditions in Germany mean that those with concerns about mass migration have little representation in parliament.
The pro-migrant Chancellor, Angela Merkel, is governing over a coalition that includes the Social Democrats, Germany’s second-largest party. Other parties, such as the Greens, share her ‘open door’ stance.
Merkel is widely blamed for the current crisis. At Pegida rallies in Germany, placards depicting her in a hijab, with the caption ‘take your Muslims and get lost’, are commonplace.
According to Johannes Filous, 27, a prominent anti-Fascist activist in Dresden, this vocal extremism is compensation for the failure of Pagoda’s substantive policies.
‘Pegida has been running around in circles every Monday for months and it isn’t making an impact any more,’ he said.
‘Its leaders know they need to actually do something, but so far all of their promises have come to nothing. So their language gets wilder and wilder.’
In recent months, Pegida has pledged to form a legitimate political party; put a stop to a tax that funds German state media; launch legal action against the federal government; publish weekly ‘Pegidaleaks’ online to uncover corruption in State institutions; and lead a boycott of the economy every Wednesday.
None of these have materialised.
When questioned about the failure of her policy announcements, Festerling was unabashed. ’You have to test out your ideas,’ she said. ‘We are the only ones who can try such things.’