Angela Merkel
Angela Merkel Reuters

German Chancellor Angela Merkel declined to comment on Saturday when asked about a new Polish law that imposes jail terms for suggesting the country was complicit in the Holocaust, Reuters reported.

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."

“Without directly interfering in the legislation in Poland, I would like to say the following very clearly as German chancellor: We as Germans are responsible for what happened during the Holocaust, the Shoah, under National Socialism (Nazism),” Merkel said in her weekly video podcast.

She was responding to a question from a student who had asked whether the new Polish law curbs freedom of expression.

Israel has expressed concern that the Polish 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 United States has similarly expressed concern over the law. The State Department urged Poland to reconsider the law before it was approved by the Senate. Later, following 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.

Polish President Andrzej Duda signed the bill into law this week. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson later said Washington was “disappointed” over the approval of the law, adding , “Enactment of this law adversely affects freedom of speech and academic inquiry.”

A Polish government spokeswoman welcomed Merkel’s remarks on Saturday, the PAP news agency reported. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki will hold talks with Merkel in Berlin next week, noted Reuters.

Relating to the Polish last week, German Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said Poland can rely on his country to condemn distortions of history such as descriptions of Nazi camps in occupied Poland as “Polish concentration camps.”

“This organized mass murder was carried out by our country and no one else. Individual collaborators change nothing about that,” said the German Foreign Minister.

“We are convinced that only carefully appraising our own history can bring reconciliation. That includes people who had to experience the intolerable suffering of the Holocaust being able to speak unrestrictedly about this suffering,” he added.

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