Revenge of Adolf: because of which the Dassler brothers, the creators of Adidas and Puma, quarreled

Adolf Dassler with the boots of the German national team, 1950s.

Adolf Dassler with the boots of the German national team, 1950s.

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It happens that brothers and sisters quarrel, and there is nothing remarkable about it. But because of a quarrel between the Dassler brothers – Adolf and Rudolf – the Bavarian city of Herzogenaurach split in two. Thus began the history of two of the world’s largest brands – Adidas and Puma.


Herzogenaurach was called the city of shoemakers. At the beginning of the 20th century, there were as many as 112 shoe workshops for 3.5 thousand inhabitants. It is not surprising that the father of Adolf (Adi) and Rudolf (Rudi) was also a shoemaker – he worked in a factory, and then opened his own workshop.

Parents hoped that their sons would choose a different path: Rudolf was predicted to be a policeman, and Adolf was given as an assistant to a baker. But this was not destined to come true.

Adi was fond of sports since childhood, but since the family did not have free funds to buy equipment and equipment for the boy, he made everything for himself – both shoes and balls. His peers liked his sports shoes so much that they asked Adolf to sew the same ones for them.

The First World War passed the brothers, Adolf was called up only at the end of hostilities. He returned home at the end of 1919, where, together with his father, he started manufacturing shoes for the disabled – after the war there was a high demand for them. To do this, Adi opened his own office, offering inexpensive, but high-quality shoes. Pretty quickly, she also gained popularity among Bavarian athletes.

Rudolf at that time studied in Munich at the courses of a police officer. But the career of a policeman did not work out and the young man returned to his parents. In 1924, Adolf invited his older brother to create a joint shoe company. She was named Gebrüder Dassler (abbreviated as GeDa). The shy Adi was given the place of the creator and the brain of the company, and the extroverted Rudy was the head of sales.


The brothers sewed their first sneakers, which at that time were called sports shoes, in the mother’s laundry. In three years, the company grew to 12 employees and the Dasslers were forced to look for more premises.

The main goal of the brothers at the initial stage was to put shoes on athletes. Adi and Rudy believed that if an athlete won the competition in their shoes, it would help promote the product.

Such a chance presented itself at the 1928 Olympic Games in Amsterdam. Adolf persuaded German long-distance runner Lina Radke to wear their spiked shoes for the 800m race. Lina agreed and won, setting a new world record.

Sportfarbrik Gebrüder Dassler became widely known for the 1936 Olympics held in Berlin. Adi provided shoes to athletes from different countries, and, in particular, concluded a (first ever) sponsorship contract with African American Jesse Owens, which also became a sensation (especially for Nazi Germany). He won four gold medals while wearing the shoes of the Dassler brothers. And in total, the athletes who agreed to perform in the shoes of Adi and Rudi then took seven gold, five silver and five bronze medals.


A stain on the reputation of the Dassler brothers is still cooperation with the National Socialist regime. In the 1930s, the brothers joined the NSDAP, although it is still not clear whether they shared Hitler’s beliefs, or whether it was a forced measure.

The outbreak of World War II jeopardized the Dassler company. Adolf was drafted into the army in 1940, but was quickly given a reprieve – in 1941, the authorities demanded that the brothers produce 10,500 pairs of shoes per month for military needs, and without a skillful manager this was impossible to do.

In 1943, Rudy was already under mobilization. He was sent to Poland, where he was in the typing bureau.

At this time, at the request of the authorities, the production of shoes was suspended at the factory. Instead, they began production of the Panzerschreck portable rocket launcher.


The 1940s were a turning point in the brothers’ lives. There are many versions why Adolf and Rudolf quarreled with each other until the end of their days. However, even children and grandchildren cannot for sure name a single reason for a quarrel.

According to one version, at the beginning of the war, the young wife Adi began to actively interfere in the family business, which Rudolf did not like at all. According to another, Rudolf had an affair with Adolf’s wife. The younger brother could not forgive such a betrayal.

Another version claims that Rudy, who was drafted into the army, demanded that his brother coordinate with him every step regarding the management of the factory, and appoint Rudolf’s wife as his deputy. But Adolf refused.

According to a fourth theory, the conflict between the brothers began at the beginning of the war. During one of the air raids, the brothers and their families took refuge in the basement. When the blows stopped, Rudolf and his wife got out, but then the roar of the planes was heard again. The couple hurried back.

“Those pigs are back again,” Adolf sighed.

Rudolf took his brother’s words personally, although Adi had in mind the Allied aviation.

The fifth version is this: Rudy, who went AWOL in 1945, was detained by American soldiers on a tip from his brother. He allegedly said that Rudolf collaborated with the Gestapo. Dassler Sr. was sent to an internment camp. Suspecting Adi of snitching, Rudolf told the Americans that, on the initiative of his brother, during the war years, their factory produced military equipment and Adolf personally agitated the workers. As a result, Rudy received two years of probation and returned home. Gebrüder Dassler was ordered to manufacture hockey skates and ship them to the USA.

AND Cracked the world in half

The strife between the brothers and the difficult post-war period led to the fact that the Dassler family split. In 1948, the Gebrüder Dassler company officially separated. Instead, two competing factories appeared: Addas (Adolf added the letter i because a company with the same name already existed) and Ruda, which eventually became Puma.

The Aurach River divided not only the two companies, which were located on opposite banks, but the entire city of Herzogenaurach. Those who worked at the Adidas factory never went into the shops and pubs where Puma workers frequented. In the city there was a confrontation between the football teams of Adidas and Pumov. The locals have developed a habit: the first thing to do is always look at a person’s shoes in order to determine “one’s own”.

Despite mutual success, Adidas under the control of Adolf Dassler was slightly ahead. Glory to him brought the 1954 FIFA World Cup, when the German team beat the favorites of the Hungarian team.

Boots with screwed spikes helped the Germans to defeat the opponent – the invention of the brothers, patented back in the 1920s, came in handy – the field was wet after the rain.

The brothers did not speak until the end of their lives. Rudolf’s grandson Michael Dassler recalls that in the house it was forbidden to mention the name of Adolf and the name of his factory.

When Rudolph was dying in 1974, his younger brother refused to come and say goodbye, sending a short message that he forgives Rudy everything. The Dasslers died four years apart. But even at the city cemetery, they did not reconcile – the brothers are buried at opposite ends.

In the 1990s, the brothers’ heirs lost control of the companies. And in 2009, the new owners decided to officially reconcile the two companies on the football field in Herzogenaurach. Each team had employees from both Puma and Adidas, and the ball was a joint product.

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