Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel issued the following statement today (3 February) on the Polish Act on the Institute of National Remembrance - Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes against the Polish Nation:
For us Germans, the detailed confrontation and examination of our own history and our own responsibility is an ongoing moral obligation in view of the crimes which Germans and Germany committed also in Poland.
There is absolutely no doubt about who bears responsibility for the extermination camps, about who operated them and murdered millions of European Jews there: it was Germans. This organised mass murder was perpetrated by our country and no one else. The actions of individual collaborators do not alter that fact.
For 15 years, I myself organised and conducted trips with youth groups to the memorial sites of the former concentration camps in Auschwitz and Majdanek. Nothing was more clear to me than the fact that these were German concentration camps which were not in Poland by accident. For the intention was that Polish culture, too, like all Jewish life, should be eradicated. Three million of the more than six million Jews murdered came from Poland.
The awareness of this historic guilt is part of today’s German identity in our democratic state and a central point on which all democratic powers in our country are in consensus.
That is why Germany will, also in its own interests, pass on the memory of these atrocities to younger generations and will not allow them to be relativised in any way. We are convinced that reconciliation can only be brought about by the careful confrontation and examination of our own history. That also means that people who had to endure the unbearable suffering of the Shoah should be able to speak about this suffering without restriction.
For this reason, Poland can rest assured that our response to falsification of history in any form, such as use of the term ‘Polish concentration camp’, will be clear rejection and strong condemnation.