Human Smoke: The Begin­nings of World War II, the End of Civilization

Nichol­son Baker
  • Review
By – January 27, 2012

This is a work of his­to­ry by nov­el­ist Nichol­son Bak­er, though it reads like fic­tion. Bak­er weaves togeth­er diaries and jour­nals, news­pa­per reports, radio address­es, mag­a­zine pro­files and inter­views to but­tress the book’s the­sis, which is that civil­ians are the fod­der of war. Lead­ers know the truth and yet they engage in killing. Civil­ians know the truth and yet they fol­low their lead­ers into war. Span­ning the peri­od from the late 1800s to the begin­ning of World War II, Human Smoke cli­max­es in the great­est his­tor­i­cal exam­ple of the end of civ­i­liza­tion, the mur­der of six mil­lion inno­cents in the Holocaust.

Mic­ah D. Halpern is a colum­nist and a social and polit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor. He is the author of What You Need To Know About: Ter­ror, and main­tains The Mic­ah Report at www​.mic​ah​halpern​.com.

Discussion Questions