Heinz Knoke

I Flew for the Führer

By Heinz Knoke. A fast-paced autobiography of Heinz Knoke, one of Germany’s outstanding Fighter Pilots of World War II. As a contrast to the many accounts of British and American air-war experiences, this first-hand record from the “other side” makes fascinating reading.

The early chapters describe Knoke’s childhood and the first impact of the Nazi regime. Born in Hamelin, he was a policeman’s son and was brought up in the strict Prussian tradition.

At the outbreak of war, he joined the German Air Force, was promoted to Lieutenant, and became Commanding Officer of a Fighter Wing. He logged over 2,000 flights and shot down fifty-two enemy aircraft before being crippled by wounds in an astonishing “last stand” towards the end of the war.

Without doubt Heinz Knoke was an outstandingly brave and skilful fighter. His book reveals his intense patriotism, his discipline, and that sentimentality which is so peculiarly German.

He describes the background of German Air Force life, and the excellent, morale of German airmen up to the time of the gradual disintegration of their air force.

A highlight from his book is his account of a telephone conversation from his bed with Reich-Marshal Herman Giiring on the 22nd March, 1943: Knoke is resting after destroying a United States Flying Fortress by a new bombing technique:—

The Major comes back on the line:

“I am putting you through to the Reich-Marshal.”

This is the shock of my life!

I lie rigid, stiffening in bed to a horizontal position of attention, to report: “Lieutenant Knoke here, Number five Flying Commander, Number one Fighter Wing.”

“I am delighted with the initiative you have displayed, I want personally to express to you my particular appreciation.”

And that is that.

So there we have a full-fledged Prussian lieutenant in the German Air Force talking to his Commander-in-Chief while lying in bed wearing nothing but a pyjama jacket. Incredible!

If the great man only knew, I am not even wearing the trousers: the tight elastic irritates me. I cannot help laughing at the thought, as I turn over again.



1: The Early Years: 1920–1939

2: Training: 1940

3: Over Britain, the Soviet Union, and Germany: 1941

4: The Channel, Norway, and the Netherlands: 1942

5: Fighting the Flying Fortresses: 1943

6: In Defence of the Reich: January to June 1944

7: In Defence of the Reich: June to December 1944

8: Crippled and The End

List of Illustrations

  • Hamelin.
  • My father and mother.
  • Myself in the uniform of the Jungvolk.
  • Leading a parade of Hitler Youth, Hamelin, 1939.
  • With Lilo and the children after the war.
  • In Berlin, September 1940.
  • Recruit, 1939.
  • Squadron Commander, 1945. [This photograph was taken three days before the end of the war.]
  • Hitler speaking in the Berlin Sportpalast, December 1940. [The arrow indicates myself.]
  • Tree-trunks snap like match-sticks as we crash in a Junkers transport aircraft, November 1940.
  • A rickety old plane fails and I make a false landing, May, 1940.
  • Lt. Steiger, myself, and Lt, Gerhard.
  • The remains of Steiger’s plane.
  • Steiger’s funeral.
  • Steiger’s funeral procession.
  • The ground-crew fire a last salute.
  • My ground-crew.
  • The Meteorological Office at Jever.
  • Oberst Werner Mölders.
  • A Boeing’s last landing.
  • Sergeant Wennecker is a Boeing shot down by him in May, 1943.
  • Major Specht.
  • Dieter Gerhardt.
  • A wounded airman is interrogated.
  • Another heavy bomber is added to my list.
  • At Füni, 1943.
  • Round the squadron car, June, 1943.
  • Nine enemy bombers chalked up on my plane, 1943.
  • The pilots of the “5th Staffel”, Summer, 1943. [Five of them were killed a few months later.]
  • Myself with Trockels and Kilian.
  • Lilo.
  • The cockpit of my plane showing the squadron badge.
  • Inspection by General Schwabedissen, June 1943.
  • Six men back from a successful operation, 1944. [Six bombers remained over Germany.]
  • Captain Sommers returns from shooting down a reconnaissance Mosquito.
  • Myself, Summer, 1944.

226 pages, all original illustrations. Paperback


Additional information

Dimensions 6 × .80 × 9 in

Heinz Knoke