Members of the Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD) party have said there should be less apology for Germany's Nazi past and other periods of its history should be celebrated instead.
“Remembering the crimes… is a responsibility which never ends. It belongs inseparably to our country,” Merkel said during her first visit as chancellor to the former Auschwitz Nazi death camp.
“To be aware of this responsibility is part of our national identity, our self-understanding as an enlightened and free society, a democracy with rule of law,” she said.
Merkel said Auschwitz “demands that we keep the memory alive”.
She expressed Germany's enduring “deep shame” at what happened in Auschwitz-Birkenau, where a million Jews lost their lives between 1940 and 1945.
“There are no words to express our sorrow,” she said.
Addressing Holocaust survivors present, she added: “I bow my head before the victims of the Shoah”.
The chancellor also addressed a rise of anti-Semitic and other hate crimes in Germany in recent years, saying they had reached an “alarming level”.
“To combat anti-Semitism, the history of extermination camps has to be shared, it has to be told,” she said.