Penn State symposium examines impact of World War II on Middle East

Kirsten Schlorff
September 06, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — On Sept. 1, 1939, Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany invaded Poland from the west; two days later, France and Britain declared war on Germany, beginning World War II. Almost 80 years to the day since its outbreak, top scholars from around the world will gather at Penn State's University Park campus to explore new ways of thinking about the war.

“World War II and the Middle East” will take place Sept. 9 and 10 at various locations on campus. The opening remarks and keynote address will take place from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 9, in the Faculty Staff Club at the Nittany Lion Inn; presentations, discussion and concluding remarks will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 10, in Paterno Library’s Foster Auditorium. All of the events are free and open to the public.

“This symposium is intended to benefit people who want to delve deeper into the history of this war,” said Lior Sternfeld, Penn State assistant professor of history and Jewish studies. “I think it will illuminate the effects that World War II had on the Middle East and will provide a more global perspective to our discussion on the war.”

Though World War II was a ‘world war,’ most scholars have studied and discussed the war and its legacy in the Western perspective.

“World War II, however, was a profoundly transformational period for the non-Western world, shaping political powers for years to come,” Sternfeld said.

Sternfeld hopes attendees will engage with the presentations, actively participate in conversations, and draw parallels to contemporary historical issues and the neglect of non-Western perspective.

World War II had long-lasting implications on the social and cultural developments of Middle Eastern societies and helped to define fascism and communism in ways that were later critical during the postwar era, according to Sternfeld.

“We see now the collapse of the world order that followed the war," he said. "I think it is very useful to go back to the basic terms of the liberal-western societies as we know them and see what led to their being introduced in 1945. Adding the non-Western angles may allow us to analyze the relations between the West and the rest of the world after World War II and during the Cold War, and in a way, even to this day.”

The “World War II and the Middle East” symposium is sponsored by Penn State’s Department of History, Jewish Studies Program, Humanities Institute, Center for Global Studies, Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures, African Studies Program, and Department of Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese.

  • Lior Sternfeld

    Lior Sternfeld, Penn State assistant professor of history and Jewish studies, helped organize the "World War II and the Middle East" symposium at Penn State on Sept. 9 and 10.

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated September 03, 2020