Karl Schnörrer

For Yiddish term meaning "beggar" or "sponger", see Schnorrer.
Karl Schnörrer

Karl Schnörrer
Nickname(s) Quax
Born (1919-03-22)22 March 1919
Died 25 September 1979(1979-09-25) (aged 60)
Allegiance  Nazi Germany
Service/branch  Luftwaffe
Years of service 1941–45
Rank Leutnant
Unit JG 54, Kommando Nowotny, JG 7
Commands held 11./JG 7
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Ritterkreuz

Karl "Quax" Schnörrer (22 March 1919 – 25 September 1979) was a German Luftwaffe fighter pilot during World War II. He was a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, awarded by Nazi Germany to recognise extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership. Schnörrer flew a total of 536 missions and claimed 46 aerial victories. Of his 11 aerial victories claimed in "Defense of the Reich", all were made flying the Messerschmitt Me-262 jet fighter and included nine four-engine bombers.


He "earned" his nickname "Quax" by crashing the difficult-to-control Messerschmitt 109 fighter plane three times during his flight-training.[1][2] The name of a popular accident-prone cartoon character of the time, it was taken from the movie Quax, der Bruchpilot released in 1941 with the famous German actor Heinz Rühmann as Quax.

Arriving on the Eastern Front as an Unteroffizier soon after the start of the offensive in the summer of 1941, he was assigned initially to the training squadron of Jagdgeschwader 54 (Erg./JG 54—54th Fighter Wing) (where he met Walter Nowotny), then in July to frontline duties with 1./ JG54. He scored his first victory on 13 December 1941. In late 1942, Walter Nowotny chose Karl to be his wingman. The two were close friends and Schnörrer had but three victories at the time. Later, in March 1943, Anton "Toni" Döbele and Rudolf Rademacher joined with the two and created one of the most fearsome combat formations ever: the Nowotny Schwarm. The group amassed a combined total of over 500 victories. Karl was the perfect wingman - not looking to score strongly himself, but instead protecting and covering his flight leader, thus allowing Nowotny to become one of the greatest of the Luftwaffe pilots - a fact that Walter was always quick to point out, and their stories are inextricably intertwined.

As a Kaczmarek (wingman) he scored slowly: By 20 March 1943, he only had 5 victories after 146 missions; on 18 September near the end of the Kursk offensive, he scored his 23rd victory. In the same time, "Novi" had gone from 75 to 218 victories! This action had taken their Gruppe, I./JG 54 across the length of the Eastern Front. At the start of 1943, in very heavy fighting, the Soviet Army had established a tenuous 5-mile wide corridor between the besieged Leningrad and the main front. Large air battles raged overhead as the Germans tried to break the vital supply line. In early March, the Nowotny schwarm scored victories south of Lake Ilmen, covering the German withdrawal from the Demyansk salient. Then it was back to Leningrad again interrupted by a spell of leave in May. After more heavy activity over the Leningrad front in June, Nowotny was on leave when the Gruppe was transferred to the Orel salient for the upcoming Kursk offensive in July. The Soviets held the line then in August launched their own counter-offensives on the weakened German lines. As a 'fire-brigade', I./JG 54 was transferred to Poltava in the Ukraine in desperate defence, then in September the Gruppe, now led by Nowotny, was transferred back to Orel on the northern side, to defend against that offensive.[3]

All along the front the Soviets were advancing and in October, they were in Vitebsk as the Germans unsuccessfully tried to hold the crucial railhead at Smolensk. Throughout all of this, the Nowotny schwarm was scoring freely. On 14 October, to the southwest of Smolensk, Walter Nowotny became the first pilot to ever reach 250 air victories. On the same day, Karl Schnörrer scored his 33rd victory. But at this point, with Walter's relentless pursuit of greatness finally achieved and their mission turn-round relaxing, their luck ran out. Anton Döbele was killed in a mid-air collision over Smolensk on 11 November. He had reached 94 victories. Nowotny was immediately given a no-fly order, being too valuable to lose. But the next day, Luftflotte 6 had to dispatch all its aircraft to cover a new offensive north of Vitebsk. Nowotny scored his 255th, and last, victory on the Eastern Front. A few minutes later Schnörrer, ever the good wingman, shot down an Il-2 bomber attacking Nowotny for his own 35th victory, before he himself was shot down by another bomber. Baling out at only about 50m his parachute couldn't deploy in time, and he crashed to the ground; alive, but breaking both legs and fracturing his skull.

Seven months later in June 1944, having recovered from his injuries and commissioned as an officer, Ltn Schnörrer was transferred to Erprobungskommando 262, a small unit doing flight-testing of the revolutionary new Messerschmitt Me 262 jet. In September, the fighter was ready to proceed to advanced combat-testing and his friend Walter Nowotny was brought in to lead the project. On 26 September, the unit was re-designated Kommando Nowotny. But progress was slow and with the war-situation getting worse, an impatient General Galland arrived in early-November to get a personal report. On 8 November, in very poor weather conditions, Nowotny led a schwarm of Me 262s into one of its first group combat missions. Tragically, although he shot down a bomber and a Mustang fighter he was himself killed, probably picked off after yet another engine flame-out left him defenceless.[4]

The unit was disbanded and absorbed, as the III Gruppe, into the world's first jet combat unit- Jagdgeschwader 7. Schnörrer was assigned to 11./JG 7 [Note 1] and while with this unit for the next four months scored 11 further victories, including 9 four-engine bombers, thus making him one of the top jet-aces of the war. On 19 March 1945 he was made Staffelkäpitan of 11./JG 7 and three days later, on 22 March, was awarded the Ritterkreuz for 43 victories. However, on 30 March, engaging yet another bomber stream (in which he claimed two B-17s shot down over Hamburg) he was hit by crossfire from a third bomber. Pursued by Mustang fighters, he baled out but unluckily hit the tailplane on his exit. Although he landed safely his leg wounds were so serious that he had to have his leg amputated, thus ending his combat career.[5][6]

Karl "Quax" Schnörrer flew 536 combat missions for the relatively modest total of 46 victories. His Ritterkreuz was due recognition, not necessarily of a high personal tally, but his outstanding skill as a formation-pilot and supporting wingman.

He died on 25 September 1979, at Nürnberg, aged 60.



  1. some publications mistakenly call it 9./JG 7, using the former 3-squadron unit-numbering system. By this time of the war, all fighter units had 4 squadrons to a group. Although JG 7 apparently only ever formed 3 squadrons in their Gruppen they used the new numbering system, missing out the 4, 8 and 12 Staffeln respectively



  1. Aces of the Luftwaffe website.
  2. Musciano 1989, pg. 119.
  3. Luftwaffe Air Units: Single–Engined Fighters website.
  4. Morgan/Weal 1998, pp. 27-28.
  5. Forsythe 2008, pg. 83.
  6. Musciano 1989, pg. 119.
  7. Patzwall 2008, p. 185.
  8. Patzwall & Scherzer 2001, p. 419.
  9. Fellgiebel 2000, p. 386.


  • Bergström, Christer (2007). Kursk – The Air Battle, July 1943. Hersham, Surrey: Ian Allan Publishing ISBN 1-90322-388-1.
  • Fellgiebel, Walther-Peer (2000) [1986]. Die Träger des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939–1945 — Die Inhaber der höchsten Auszeichnung des Zweiten Weltkrieges aller Wehrmachtteile [The Bearers of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939–1945 — The Owners of the Highest Award of the Second World War of all Wehrmacht Branches] (in German). Friedberg, Germany: Podzun-Pallas. ISBN 978-3-7909-0284-6. 
  • Forsythe, Robert (2008). Aviation Elite Units #29: Jagdgeschwader 7 'Nowotny’. Oxford: Osprey Publishing Ltd. ISBN 978-1-84603-320-9
  • Morgan, Hugh & Weal, John (1998). German Jet Aces of World War 2. Oxford: Osprey Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-85532-634-5
  • Musciano, Walter (1989). Messerschmitt Aces. Tab Books ISBN 0-8306-8379-8
  • Obermaier, Ernst (1989). Die Ritterkreuzträger der Luftwaffe Jagdflieger 1939 – 1945 [The Knight's Cross Bearers of the Luftwaffe Fighter Force 1939 – 1945] (in German). Mainz, Germany: Verlag Dieter Hoffmann. ISBN 978-3-87341-065-7. 
  • Patzwall, Klaus D.; Scherzer, Veit (2001). Das Deutsche Kreuz 1941 – 1945 Geschichte und Inhaber Band II [The German Cross 1941 – 1945 History and Recipients Volume 2] (in German). Norderstedt, Germany: Verlag Klaus D. Patzwall. ISBN 978-3-931533-45-8. 
  • Patzwall, Klaus D. (2008). Der Ehrenpokal für besondere Leistung im Luftkrieg [The Honor Goblet for Outstanding Achievement in the Air War] (in German). Norderstedt, Germany: Verlag Klaus D. Patzwall. ISBN 978-3-931533-08-3. 
  • Scherzer, Veit (2007). Die Ritterkreuzträger 1939–1945 Die Inhaber des Ritterkreuzes des Eisernen Kreuzes 1939 von Heer, Luftwaffe, Kriegsmarine, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm sowie mit Deutschland verbündeter Streitkräfte nach den Unterlagen des Bundesarchives [The Knight's Cross Bearers 1939–1945 The Holders of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross 1939 by Army, Air Force, Navy, Waffen-SS, Volkssturm and Allied Forces with Germany According to the Documents of the Federal Archives] (in German). Jena, Germany: Scherzers Militaer-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-938845-17-2. 
  • Spick, Mike (2003). Luftwaffe Fighter Aces Greenhill Books. ISBN 1-85367-560-1
Military offices
Preceded by
Oblt Günther Wegmann
Squadron Leader of 11./JG 7
19 March 1945 – 30 March 1945
Succeeded by
Oblt Erwin Stahlberg
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