Invoking the Holocaust at the Border: Holocaust Museums, Commemoration and Community Activism in the Southwest

Mayra Alejandra Martinez, University of Texas at El Paso


This thesis is a localized study that engages with the literature on Holocaust memory and memorialization in the U.S. and asks how the themes and methodologies of those scholars elucidate Holocaust memorialization and education along the U.S.-Mexico border. During 2018- 2019, the U.S. witnessed migrant Caravans from Central America, Haiti, Africa, and South Asia as migrants fled violence, displacement, and extreme poverty to cross multiple borders and perilous terrain to seek refuge at the U.S.-Mexico border. During these same years, Holocaust analogies and Holocaust memory were instrumentalized by human rights advocates, descendants of survivors, and public officials who either linked migrant detention practices and conditions to concentration camps or advocated against such analogies. I compare the ways in which Jewish activists and Holocaust museums in Tucson, Arizona and El Paso, Texas have addressed human rights abuses against migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. Primary and secondary sources, including interviews by Rabbis and activists, revealed the varying ways Tucson’s and El Paso’s Holocaust museums and Jewish community organizations addressed representation during the humanitarian crisis (in Jewish and organizing spaces), the contrasting Jewish response to the perceived crisis, and when Holocaust memory and never again are evoked in such spaces. This thesis examines Holocaust museums, commemoration, and activism in hypermilitarized Southwestern borderland communities, and its relation to the contemporary migration discourse.

Subject Area

Holocaust Studies|Modern history|Judaic studies|Museum studies

Recommended Citation

Martinez, Mayra Alejandra, "Invoking the Holocaust at the Border: Holocaust Museums, Commemoration and Community Activism in the Southwest" (2023). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI30521496.