International Holocaust Remembrance Day is being marked with an exhibition of portraits by Jewish artists.

The exhibition, Last Portrait: Painting for Posterity, displays some 200 pictures of Jews by 21 Jewish artists documenting their friends and acquaintances in ghettos and concentration camps during the Holocaust.

The exhibition at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem opened on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a UN initiative to commemorate the date that Soviet troops liberated the Nazi death camp Auschwitz.

This year the date 27 January has added significance because it falls just a week after the 70th anniversary commemoration of the Wannsee Conference in Berlin at which government bodies decided to carry out the "Final Solution" - the genocide of European Jews.

"The exhibition testifies to the tremendous creative drive that moved Jewish artists from different backgrounds to diligently draw entire series of portraits, despite appalling living conditions and lacking crucial tools of the trade," a Yad Vashem spokesman said.

"With just a few lines of pencil or charcoal on paper, the artists managed to breathe life into the images of people in the shadow of death.

"Each portrait in the exhibition binds together three stories: that of the subject, the artist and the work itself," the spokesman added.

"Regardless whether the artist perished or survived, the artworks that remained enable us to contemplate the faces of men, women and children recorded in the heat of events."