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 totaled 352 kills.
Date Published :
February 2023
Publisher :
Illustration :
10 photos
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781612008240
Pages : 240
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : In stock
Binding. : Paperback
ISBN : 9781636243030
Pages : 240
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : Not Yet Published. Available for Pre-Order
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The story of the top-scoring ace in history, a Luftwaffe pilot named Erich Hartmann who totaled 352 kills.

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.

About The Author

Erik Schmidt has made a career of researching complicated topics. A former magazine editor and senior marketing writer, he has an MFA in creative nonfiction and a lifelong love of history and aviation. He is a freelance writer living in Denver, Colorado with his family.



Part 1: Inheritances
1. ‘The force that is devoted to death’
2. Harmony
3. The demolition function
4. Jugend
5. Into the Luftwaffe

Part 2: Hartmann’s wars
6. Kills
7. Against Stalin’s falcons
8. Recognition and attrition
9. Into captivity
10.The east and the west
11. Old gray ghosts

Part 3: Stories told
12. Marketing the Wehrmacht
13. The first, the last, the family
14: What we can say



"This is a genuinely fascinating and often compelling book. I like Erik Schmidt’s honesty and his attention to detail. "

- War History Online

"Portrays a complex human ... Black Tulip does much to fill in the backstory of the greatest fighter ace." 

- Flight Journal

"A fascinating insight into the making of a flying legend ... exposes through rigorous analysis how myths are made, and sometimes used, to excuse one of the most evil mass slaughters in history."

- RAF News

“I am jealous. This is a wonderfully different—and wonderfully written—work. Schmidt is no fawning fanboy of the ‘Greatest Ace of All Time.’ Instead, he is a sympathetic and insightful researcher who has produced an engrossing and thoughtfully wandering analysis of the multi-dimensional Hartmann that is unlike, and better than, anything ever done. Get this one.”

- Jay Stout, author of Vanished Hero and Unsung Eagles

‘’If you are attracted to the idea of a book that attempts to explore, lucidly, the Nazi period German serviceman’s mindset and which uses Hartmann as its fulcrum, then this might appeal.’’

- The Aviation Historian

‘’Highly recommended for aviation fans…’’

- Detail Scale View

‘’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 Monthly

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