Black Tulip

The Life and Myth of Erich Hartmann, the World’s Top Fighter Ace

Erik Schmidt

The story of the top-scoring ace in history, a Luftwaffe pilot named Erich Hartmann who totalled 352 kills.
Publication date:
April 2020
Publisher :
Casemate Publishers
Illustration :
10 photos
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ISBN : 9781612008240

Dimensions : 229 X 152 mm
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Regular Price: £25.00

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• Erich Hartmann is the highest-scoring fighter ace in history
• Erich Hartmann is an outstanding character, whose story will appeal to aviation and history consumers: well-known enough to trigger recognition, but mysterious enough to make readers want to know more

Black Tulip is the dramatic story of history's top fighter ace, Luftwaffe pilot Erich Hartmann. It's also the story of how his service under Hitler was simplified and elevated to Western mythology during the Cold War.

Over 1,404 wartime missions, Hartmann claimed a staggering 352 airborne kills, and his career contains all the dramas you would expect. There were the frostbitten fighter sweeps over the Eastern Front, drunken forays to Hitler's Eagle's Nest, a decade of imprisonment in the wretched Soviet POW camps, and further military service during the Cold War that ended with conflict and angst.

Just when Hartmann's second career was faltering, he was adopted by a network of writers and commentators personally invested in his welfare and reputation. These men, mostly Americans, published elaborate, celebratory stories about Hartmann and his elite fraternity of Luftwaffe pilots. With each dogfight tale put into print, Hartmann's legacy became loftier and more secure, and his complicated service in support of Nazism faded away. A simplified, one-dimensional account of his life - devoid of the harder questions about allegiance and service under Hitler - has gone unchallenged for almost a generation.

Black Tulip locates the ambiguous truth about Hartmann and so much of the German Wehrmacht in general: that many of these men were neither full-blown Nazis nor impeccable knights. They were complex, contradictory, and elusive. This book portrays a complex human rather than the heroic caricature we're used to, and it argues that the tidy, polished hero stories we've inherited about men like Hartmann say as much about those who've crafted them as they do about the heroes themselves.


What sets this book apart is the in depth analysis of who Hartmann was and whether his reputation is apt and why he was and still is held in such high regard. It's a fascinating book and I highly recommend it.

Aviation Enthusiast Book Club

Well-written, thought provoking.
Aeroplane Magazine