Rex Tillerson
Rex TillersonReuters

The United States on Tuesday said it was “disappointed” after Polish President Andrzej Duda signed a controversial bill which would impose criminal penalties for attributing Nazi crimes to Poland.

“We understand this law will be referred to Poland’s Constitutional Tribunal. Enactment of this law adversely affects freedom of speech and academic inquiry,” said a statement from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

“The United States reaffirms that terms like 'Polish death camps' are painful and misleading. Such historical inaccuracies affect Poland, our strong ally, and must be combatted in ways that protect fundamental freedoms. We believe that open debate, scholarship, and education are the best means of countering misleading speech,” the statement added.

Duda earlier on Tuesday signed the bill into law, but also said he would send the legislation, which now comes into force, to the Constitutional Tribunal to rule on whether it conforms with guarantees for freedom of speech.

The law sets fines or a maximum three-year jail term for anyone ascribing "responsibility or co-responsibility to the Polish nation or state for crimes committed by the German Third Reich -- or other crimes against humanity and war crimes."

Israel, however, has expressed concern that the legislation relating to the extermination of Jews by Nazi Germany in occupied Poland during World War II, could serve to deny the involvement of individual Poles in the Holocaust.

The State Department last week urged Poland to reconsider the law before it was approved by the Senate. Last Thursday, hours after the vote in the Senate, the American embassy in Poland said it was “concerned about the repercussions” for bilateral relations of legislation in Warsaw about the Holocaust.

The Polish Senate voted on the legislation despite an agreement between Polish Prime Ministe Mateusz Morawiecki and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu last week, according to which the two sides would hold a dialogue in order to try to reach understandings on the controversial legislation.