Nowadays, it represents a commonplace practice among many Americans to believe that that along with Britain, the U.S. was the main contributor towards Allied victory over the Nazis in 1945. The truth is, however, is that it was the Russians, who contributed the most towards making this victory possible.
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This simply could not be otherwise – even though the mentioned countries did participate (most often formally) in the armed struggle against Hitler, they were doing it rather reluctantly. After all, despite their official stance, the USSR’s Western allies never ceased referring (unconsciously) to the war between Germany and Russia in terms of ‘civilization’ vs. ‘barbarianism’.
The validity of this suggestion can be illustrated, in regards to the wartime public statements of American general George Patton, who used to openly proclaim that the U.S. should have fought on the side of the Nazis. Therefore, it does not come as a particular surprise that, in the aftermath of the WW2, there were published a number of historical books in the West that aim for nothing shorter than glorifying the Nazi cause in this war. One of these books is The Blond Knight of Germany: A Biography of Erich Hartmann by Raymond Toliver and Trevor Constable, which was published in 1970.
As the book’s name implies, it contains the biographical account of the life and career of the highest-scoring ace of all times – a German fighter-pilot Erich Hartmann, who, ever since 1942, when he joined the JG-52 squadron in the Eastern front, and until the end of the war, managed to score 352 aerial victories (10 of them over Allied planes).
The authors trace the Hartmann’s story from the time of his childhood, when he learned (with the help of his mother) how to fly glider-planes. As Toliver and Constable continue to expound on the specifics of how Hartmann decided to join the Luftwaffe, while only 19 years old, they make a deliberate point in presenting him as an utterly admirable young man, who was willing to lay down his life for Germany.
Consequently, readers are being exposed to the stories of Hartmann’s combat-exploits, including his escape from Russian captivity in 1944. Probably the most memorable are the book’s concluding chapters, in which Hartmann is being represented as nothing short of a Christ-like figure, who during the course of having been kept as a prisoner of war in the labor-camp in Siberia (for 10 years), used to be tortured (physically and mentally) by ‘evil’ Russians.
The book’s main idea can be formulated as follows: Erich Hartmann is indeed a true hero: “He (Hartmann) is a heroic man, whose faults, if they be understood aright, are but manifestations of a surpassingly positive personality” (Toliver and Constable 278). This idea implicitly connotes that, during the course of the WW2, Americans and the British would be much better off deciding in favor of affiliating themselves with Germany, as opposed to siding with the USSR.
Thus, The Blond Knight of Germany can hardly be discussed in terms of a thoroughly unbiased biographical account – it is not only that both authors have met with Hartmann personally on many occasions, but they also considered him their personal friend.
Partially, this can be explained by the fact that Toliver (former fighter-pilot) and Constable (historian) have been known for their extremely anti-Soviet/Russian attitudes – much like those of Senator McCain, who is only one step short of declaring that Hitler wanted to liberate humanity from ‘Russian menace’. The book’s narrative is essentially based upon Hartmann’s memories of his wartime experiences.
Therefore, it will be indeed thoroughly appropriate to suggest that the discursive significance of Toliver and Constable’s book cannot be expounded upon, outside of what were the realities of the post-WW2 Cold War, as well as what are the realities of the ongoing Cold War 2.
In this respect, we can well mention the fact that, regardless of what used to be the form of a political governing in Russia at a particular point of time, Anglo-Saxons never ceased considering this country as the greatest threat to their continual dominance in the world, while trying to do Russians as much harm, as possible. One of the ways of dehumanizing Russians, that used to be commonly deployed by the Nazis and by their Anglo-Saxon friends, had to do with portraying Russia as the ‘land of brutes’, where the rules of a civilized living simply do not apply.
Therefore, given the book’s subtle affiliation with the Nazi cause, it does not come as a particular surprise that The Blond Knight of Germany contains numerous references to the U.S. formal allies, as having been nothing but the wickedly minded savages. In fact, the very name of the Chapter 5 In Bear’s Grasp (it is about how Hartmann almost ended up in the hands of the Russians, after having performed a crash-landing in the enemy’s territory) is meant to encourage readers to believe that there was the quality of sub-humanness to those who dared to oppose the Nazis, and consequently drove a nail into their coffin.
The same can be said about the authors’ tendency to try to reaffirm the soundness of a number of what used to be the classical claims of Nazi propaganda, concerned with exposing the sheer ‘bestiality’ of Russians: “In areas of Germany already under Soviet occupation, the Russian troops had indulged in sexual debauchery against the German women hardly paralleled in modern times” (181).
It is needless to mention, of course, that Americans and the British in The Blond Knight of Germany are being portrayed as such that embody the very notion of virtue. This is being done, quite despite the fact that, unlike what it was the case with Russians; their ‘war-effort’ was primarily concerned with trying to kill as many German civilians as possible, by the mean of subjecting German cities to the ‘carpet bombings’, in order to undermine Germany’s morale.
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The discussed book also contains a number of accounts of Ukrainian and Russian peasants greeting the invading German troops, as liberators. However, the authors tactfully avoid mentioning that it only took Germans one year to turn initially loyal locals in the occupied territories into their sworn enemies. The ‘blond knight’ Hartmann contributed to this, as well – he repeatedly engaged the columns of Russian fleeing civilians with the Red Cross flag above them.
Toliver and Constable prefer to dismiss this unsightly part of Hartmann’s biography, while referring to it in terms of a ‘groundless allegation’. Yet, the fact that Hartmann did commit a number of war crimes has been well documented – something that explains why, after he was released from GULAG, German authorities never even tried disputing the appropriateness of his sentence.
Given the fact that, as it pointed out earlier, while telling the story of Erich Hartmann, the authors clearly strived to idealize this German ace, The Blond Knight of Germany can hardly be considered fully believable. The same can be said about the authors’ easily notable failures in providing readers with thoroughly accurate technical information, regarding Russian planes.
For example, Toliver and Constable suggest that at least 15 out of Russian planes, shot down by Hartmann, were LAGG-9s. Yet, this model of a fighter-plane has never been in existence. At the same time, however, the authors do need to be given a credit for having succeeded in enlightening readers about what used to the German viewpoint on the significance of their ‘Eastern campaign’.
Thus, it would be quite inappropriate dismissing this book altogether – it does not matter what used to be a particular war-veteran’s side in the WW2, his biography does deserve to be studied, as it will serve the cause of enlightening people that the last thing they would want to do is synonymizing the notions of ‘war’ and ‘gallantry’. It is rather ironic that, in this respect, that the reading of The Blond Knight of Germany can serve well – quite contrary to what the authors intended it to be the case.
Thus, it will be fully appropriate to conclude this paper by suggesting that Toliver and Constable’s book can be considered as yet another proof of the legitimacy of the idea that, despite having been formally allied with the USSR during the WW2, the U.S. never ceased being ‘spiritually’ sided with Germany. This raises certain doubts whether America has any moral right to claim that it almost single-handedly defeated the Nazis – something that many naïve Americans genuinely believe.
Toliver, Raymond and Trevor Constable. The Blond Knight of Germany: A Biography of Erich Hartmann. Blue Ridge Summit: Aero, 1970. Print.