Dozens of German celebrities have spoken out against a series of anti-Islamization protests. Mainstream politicians have also denounced the PEGIDA movement the morning after the latest demonstrations.
Former Chancellors Helmut Schmidt and Gerhard Schröder were among the 50 well-known Germans who spoke out against PEGIDA in the first three pages of the mass-circulation "Bild" newspaper on Tuesday.
"The PEGIDA protests appeal to muffled prejudices, to the hatred of foreigners and intolerance," the 96-year-old Schmidt, a Social Democrat chancellor from 1974 to 1982 said. "Germany must remain open and tolerant. Therefore a clear no to PEGIDA," he added.
Schröder, 70, also a Social Democrat, who was in office from 1998 to 2005, said it was "good that the democratic parties and the churches had taken a clear stand against PEGIDA."
Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) presented a practical argument againstthe populist movement, which says it supports the right of asylum for war refugees but warns that Europe will be dominated by Islam within decades if present demographic trends continue.
"Slogans can't change facts: Germany needs immigrants, and we need to have (open) hearts for refugees in need," he said.
The parliamentary floor leader of the CDU, Volker Kauder, said Germans not only loved their homeland, but were also open to the rest of the world. "This is part of our success, and this is also how it should be in the future," he said.
The general manager of Germany's national soccer team, Oliver Bierhoff noted that many of the players on the squad that lifted the World Cup in Brazil last summer, had their roots in other countries.
Also among the condemning PEGIDA, which stands for "Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West," were celebrities from the German entertainment industry.
Pro- and anti-PEGIDA demonstrations
The joint condemnation of PEGIDA was published on the morning after thelatest pro- and anti-PEGIDA demonstrations were held in a number of German cities.
Police in Dresden estimated that around 18,000 people had turned up to the PEGIDA demonstration on Monday evening, the largest number to turn up so far for the weekly rallies there.
Police in the eastern German city said around 3,000 people turned out to a counter-demonstration.
Similar rallies were held in other German cities on Monday night, including the capital, Berlin and the western city of Cologne, but in both cases the counter-demonstrators outnumbeed the anti-Islamization rallies.
The DPA news agency reported that around 5,000 demonstrated against PEGIDA in the capital, compared with several hundred supporters. Among the counter-demonstrators was Germany's justice minister, Heiko Maas, who tweeted pictures of the rally.
The city's authorities also ordered the lights that normally illuminate Brandenburg Gate to be turned off for the duration of the pro-PEGIDA demonstration.
Similarly, in Cologne, lights on the cathedral, which dominates the city's skyline, were ordered dimmed by the Roman Catholic church.
Cologne Cathedral Provost Norbert Feldhoff told private news broadcaster that the move was meant to make the demonstrators think twice about the cause they were supporting.
pfd/rg (EPD, Reuters, dpa, KNA)