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In his New York Times Book Review assessment of Nicholson Baker’s new collection, The Way the World Works, John Jeremiah Sullivan devotes extensive attention to “Why I’m a Pacifist,” an essay that ran in the May 2011 issue of Harper’s Magazine and is available to subscribers here.
Sullivan astutely remarks that the piece—which focuses on “the idea that we may have hastened the Holocaust by joining the fight, or worsened it, or even helped to bring it about”—was likely to draw more comment than others in the collection. Indeed, we received dozens of letters about “Why I’m a Pacifist,” and chose two particularly thoughtful ones for our July 2011 Letters section, which also included a response from Baker.
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"It is an interesting and somewhat macabre parlor game to play at a large gathering of one’s acquaintances: to speculate who in a showdown would go Nazi. By now, I think I know. I have gone through the experience many times—in Germany, in Austria, and in France. I have come to know the types: the born Nazis, the Nazis whom democracy itself has created, the certain-to-be fellow-travelers. And I also know those who never, under any conceivable circumstances, would become Nazis."