Advanced Search Filters

In addition to or instead of a keyword search, use one or more of the following filters when you search.

Skip to main content
Bookmark this Item

"Is This Unmanly?"

Schwarze Korps
Library of Congress

The SS played a special role not only as the elite guard of the Third Reich but also as an embodiment of Nazi racial policies. Under the command of Heinrich Himmler, the SS represented Nazi ideas of "racial purity." Those who wished to join the SS had to prove that they were descended from so-called "Aryan" German families with good "hereditary health."1 

To achieve the goal of a "racially pure" state, German authorities implemented discriminatory racial policies and encouraged families that they considered "racially valuable" to have many children.2 Consequently, marriage and childbearing became the biological and social duties of every SS man.3 The press became a powerful tool for promoting these ideas to members of the SS. In 1935, the organization launched its own weekly newspaper, Das Schwarze Korps.4 The paper discussed the ideal model of family life in regular articles and columns.5

On August 10, 1939—shortly before the outbreak of World War II—the paper published the featured article, titled "Is This Unmanly?" The article was printed alongside several photographs of SS men caring for young children, promoting active parenting and the importance of the father's role in a child's life. With its provocative title, the article aimed to challenge conservative attitudes about fatherhood. Its author argues that participation in child-rearing was not a threat to a man's masculinity. 

"Is This Unmanly?" and other related articles in Das Schwarze Korps praised fathers' involvement in the daily life of their offspring, but the publication also pushed the idea that German mothers should still be children's primary caregivers. Nevertheless, pieces such as "Is This Unmanly?" were groundbreaking for approaching parenting from a male perspective.6 By linking a contemporary approach to parenting to examples from classical German literature, the article also aimed to prove that the idea of an involved, committed father lay deeply rooted in German culture.

For more on proving one's ancestral roots in Nazi Germany, see the related Experiencing History item, "But Who Are You?"

Guided by racist and authoritarian ideas, the Nazi regime abolished basic freedoms and sought to create a racially and politically unified "Volksgemeinschaft" (German racial community). In theory, this community united all so-called "Aryans" from different social classes and regions of Germany behind the Nazi Party. In reality, the Third Reich quickly became a police state, where individuals were subject to arbitrary arrest and imprisonment if they did not conform to Nazi ideas about race and national unity.

For more details on SS families, see Amy Carney, Marriage and Fatherhood in the Nazi SS (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2018), 45–74.

German: "The Black Corps."

Amy Carney, "Das Schwarze Korps and the Validation of the SS Sippengemeinschaft," in Nazi Ideology and Ethics, ed. Wolfgang Bialas and Lothar Fritze (Newcastle upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014), 323–341.

Ibid., 323, 338.

Friedrich Schiller (1759–1805). German classicist poet, author of "Ode to Joy."

Most likely a reference to the literary salon of Rahel Varnhagen (1771–1833), a prominent German Jewish writer. See Hannah Arendt, Rahel Varnhagen: The Life of a Jewess (London: East and West Library, 1957).

The phrase comes from Schiller’s poem "Würde der Frauen" (English: "Dignity of Women").

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832). German romantic poet. 

J. W. von Goethe, "Totalität" (English: Totality).

Close Window Expand Source Viewer

This browser does not support PDFs. Please download the PDF to view it: .

The way a man must conduct himself in any situation that calls for his courage or his soldierly skills hardly requires additional explanation today. The school of the Great War, the period of struggle for Germany's liberation, and the regained military sovereignty have lent the German people a soldierly character, which has caused us to be met with hostility, hatred, and admiration in foreign countries.

Today, training for manly conduct begins early, with the little boy, and remains an essential part of the man until the last moment of his life.

One can argue, perhaps, that this behavior of the German male is not altogether new, that it has been a feature of his all along, and that without it, the accomplishments of the world war would have been impossible. That is true and can surely be disputed by no one. But this behavior, even though its testing may indeed have substantiated it, has not always been understood in its deepest sense at various times, and then, when the criterion of emergency was absent, it was made superficial.

The unheroic eras of the past have created for the everyday world a code of masculinity whose rules can no longer be binding for us. This year, the Führer's youth organization, with its distinctive zest, has taken action against customs that viewed the consumption of alcohol and use of nicotine as a sort of rite of passage for teenagers. The Hitler Youth have translated into action the realization that it is not the first inebriation and not the first Virginia cigarette that mark a boy as a man; rather, healthy youths can demonstrate their determination to achieve in a different and far healthier way.

This action entitles us to pose the question whether the older generation is not still going around with quite a few outmoded hairstyles derived from a false concept of masculinity that has nothing at all to do with true masculinity. We have no wish to launch an attack here on the regulars' table at the pub and the skittles club, nor do we want to make the question of the house key and the housekeeping money the object of our considerations, for we do not intend to deprive those poor publishers of joke books of their income. Moreover, those are problems of men who, in our opinion, forgive us the comparison, are already "in reserve status," men who, incurably stuffy and narrow-minded, are no longer worth considering for us.

But among that tribe of suitable men who, for their part, always determine the fate of the nation, there continue to exist views from a time that has nothing to do with us anymore, a time in which the constructive values of a Volk were not very popular.

Specifically, these views concern the relationship of a husband to his wife and to all that the daily routine of family life can involve.

In America, it has been regarded as an achievement of women's emancipation that the husband pushes the baby carriage across the street, that he takes a number of the household chores off his wife's hands. We must frankly admit that the American way of life together for husband and wife actually looks to us at times a great deal like an inversion of values, which should not surprise us in the land of unlimited opportunities.

Nonetheless, we must not persuade ourselves that it would automatically signify adherence to natural values if, in our country, a man balks at upholding his obligations to his wife and the mother of his children, particularly in front of the world. If we want to bring up the stock phrase about the stronger sex and the weaker sex, then a great feeling of weakness must be present in the stronger sex if its dignity is so easily shaken, just because the husband pitches in with things that otherwise belong to the sphere of woman's work.

Today we put the family at the center of völkisch life. When we say "family," we mean the multi-child family that puts up absolutely no social barriers to healthy offspring. But if we want to make this family something that is taken for granted in our people, we must not forget that there is always just one mother in a family, whose working power is needed for all sorts of things throughout the day, whose working power is not protected by legislation of any kind. The mother with many children has no ban on working on Sundays and no paid overtime. Nor does she demand it, if she has maternal feelings. But what she can rightly demand is that everything

(Continued on page 14)

[Photo captions]

[Top left] Photo at left: This father is not afraid of seeming unmanly. He is glad to take a task off his wife's hands.

[Center left] The littlest one in the family has gotten tired during a walk in the woods. Should his mother now … no, our SS comrade shows that he is not afraid of being called unmanly by feeble mockers. How natural this scene appears! As does the one in the photo next to it. Chivalry in the battlefield – chivalry in everyday life. And: uniform and baby carriage, both contain the soldier – the soldier of today as well as the one of tomorrow.

[Bottom left] Why shouldn’t the father take care of his child at times, when "worst comes to worst"? He loses none of his masculinity as a result, but one certainly sees in such cases that his love for his wife and child is not just lip service.

(continued from page 13) she does should be regarded by the entire people and especially by her husband as work that has been conspicuously honored by the Führer himself.

For anyone who has grasped that, it is actually superfluous to make special mention of the fact that it harms no man, that it is not unmanly, to assist a mother, to assist his own wife, whenever it is called for.

So why the false shame attached to taking a child from his tired mother's arms and pushing the baby carriage himself on occasion? What is improper about this? Why the fear that he might be laughed at if ever encountered at home with a dish towel in hand or a child on his lap?

It was a false sense of dignity that created a code of behavior in which this helpfulness was regarded as unseemly and unmanly. A father of six healthy children who supports his family honorably has provided sufficient proof that he is a man’s man, a real man; he has no need to emphasize it by deliberately avoiding every semblance of being caught performing "unmanly" activities. For in addition to the daily work that a man must perform, there is probably nothing more manly than actually being the father of the family and concerning himself with the children and the work of his wife.

For the German man, after all, there is no lovelier image than the one passed down to us by one of the greatest poets, Schiller,1 who was found in the midst of his swarm of children, crawling through the room on all fours with a child on his back, taking good care of his little ones. Schiller's masculinity was not impaired by that. Only those literary Jewesses from Berlin2 were able to split their sides laughing, in their group of decadent romantics, at the fact that this man wrote the words: "Honor women!"3 

The concept of masculinity, for us, depends not on correct behavior that a long-forgotten time took as the standard but rather on an attitude of zest for life in the man who belongs wholly to his own times and is wholly engaged in the fulfillment of his existence. That existence is not so impoverished and means more than just his occupation; it encompasses the richness of life with his family.

But the gentlemen — —? Goethe4 wrote in their family album:

A well-bred gentleman in head and heart
Is welcome everywhere;
He has, with his gentleman's wit so smart,
Caught women in his snare:
When fist and strength depart, alas,
Who then shall sure defend him?
When bent with age and thin of ass,
How sits that noble, who once was trim?

Let the solution to this question be left to those who find our thoughts and the photos reproduced here unmanly and "shocking."

Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
Library of Congress
Date Created
August 10, 1939
Page(s) 13-14
Author / Creator
J. Senckpiehl
Das Schwarze Korps
Munich, Germany
Document Type Newspaper Article
How to Cite Museum Materials

Thank You for Supporting Our Work

We would like to thank The Alexander Grass Foundation for supporting the ongoing work to create content and resources for Experiencing History. View the list of all donors and contributors.


Learn more about sources for your classroom