Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, was invited to the Jerusalem gathering but declined to attend over a perceived snub: He was not given a speaking slot, though Mr. Putin was.
The two have been engaged in a bitter dispute for months, with each accusing the other of trying to rewrite — and weaponize — history: Mr. Putin has sought to portray the Soviet Union as having saved the world from Nazism and to ignore its own 1939 nonaggression pact with Germany, and has framed Poland as more a perpetrator than a victim of the Holocaust. Mr. Duda argues that the Soviet agreement with Germany paved the way to war, and that Mr. Putin is reviving old Stalinist propaganda as a modern-day cudgel.
“I am sorry to say this, but President Putin is knowingly spreading historical lies,” Mr. Duda said in an interview with Israeli public television that aired Tuesday.
Fueling speculation that the Jerusalem gathering was being given a pro-Russian tilt is that its main organizer is Viatcheslav Moshe Kantor, a Russian-Jewish billionaire with close ties to Mr. Putin. His group, the World Holocaust Forum Foundation, held similar events in Poland in 2005 and 2010, Ukraine in 2006, and the Czech Republic in 2015.
But Yad Vashem’s chairman, Avner Shalev, said in an interview that Mr. Kantor had not exerted any such influence: “It’s not true.” Decisions on who would speak were made many months ago, he said, and to bend to accommodate Mr. Duda would be untenable when many other leaders were denied similar requests.
Mr. Shalev said he believed that having so many heads of state, government and parliaments making such a collective demonstration of resolve to fight anti-Semitism was well worth it, though he acknowledged that the Russia-Poland crossfire has been a headache.
“We’re in the business of historical truth,” he said. “We don’t want to play any political game.”
A last-minute casualty of the dispute was President Gitanas Nauseda of Lithuania, a former Soviet republic, who pulled out of the Yad Vashem event on Tuesday, reportedly in solidarity with Mr. Duda. Mr. Nauseda has joined Mr. Duda in accusing Mr. Putin of trying to sanitize Russia’s 1939 pact with Hitler.