The small Aurach river gurgles via the guts of Herzogenaurach, inhabitants 24,000, and offers the city its identify. However this peaceable, meandering waterway as soon as symbolized a bitter, protracted household feud that divided the city into two distinct camps.
It was all about footwear.
“The city turned referred to as the city the place folks are inclined to look down since you’d at all times have a tendency to take a look at sneakers the particular person is sporting earlier than you strike up a dialog,” mentioned Barbara Smit, a Dutch monetary journalist and one of many authors to deal with the story of the Dassler brothers, Rudolf and Adolf.
They began out making sneakers collectively earlier than having a horrible falling out. Their argument resulted within the creation of two sports activities giants, Puma and Adidas, each nonetheless based mostly within the provincial city.
Companions, then enemies
Adolf (Adi) Dassler in 1978
Rudolf and youthful brother Adolf, Rudi and Adi to pals, started their shoe enterprise of their mom’s laundry room within the 1920s. On the time, electrical energy provides within the city had been unreliable, and the brothers typically had to make use of pedal energy from a stationary bicycle to run their gear.
“They had been very completely different characters,” mentioned Smit. “Adi Dassler was at all times extra considerate, a craftsman who loved nothing greater than fiddling along with his sneakers. Whereas Rudolf Dassler was a extra abrasive, loudmouthed salesman. They complemented one another very nicely to start with.”
Their new, light-weight sports activities sneakers started to draw consideration and so they moved right into a location south of the Aurach river close to the practice station.
The Dassler Brothers Shoe Manufacturing facility jumped onto the world stage in 1936 after they discovered themselves offering footwear for American Jessie Owens, who received 4 gold medals on the Berlin Olympics.
However after the battle, the fraternal relationship fell aside. In Smit’s guide, “Pitch Invasion,” she theorizes that it may have had one thing to do with Nazi occasion hyperlinks and that after Rudolf was picked up by American troopers and accused of being a member of the SS, he was satisfied that his brother had turned him in. Others speculate it may have had one thing to do with their wives, or a easy misunderstanding in a bomb shelter. Nobody actually is aware of for positive.
What is for certain is that they felt they may now not work collectively and in 1948 the Dassler Brothers Shoe Manufacturing facility was cut up in two.
“Extra of much less in the midst of the evening, Rudolf Dassler packed his luggage and moved on the opposite facet of the little river,” mentioned Smit. “He established Puma on the opposite facet. From there on in, the city was actually cut up in two like a type of mini Berlin with this little river as a partition within the center.”
And like Berlin’s well-known wall, it wasn’t advisable to cross over, at the very least when it got here to sneakers.
A reconstruction of Adolf Dassler’s early shoe workshop
Model loyalty turned paramount for a lot of residents. Two camps fashioned, and dug in.
There have been shops, bakers and bars which had been unofficially referred to as both loyal to Rudolf’s Puma, or to Adolf’s new firm, Adidas, which he named utilizing his nickname, Adi, and the primary three letters of his final identify. There have been two soccer groups: the ASV Herzogenaurach membership wore the three stripes; the 1 FC Herzogenaurach had the leaping cat on its footwear. Intermarriage was frowned upon.
“I knew a butcher who performed for the Puma group,” mentioned Ernst Ditrich who works on the city’s museum. “He advised us the fellows from the Adidas group did not must hassle shopping for at his retailer. He did not wish to do enterprise with them. That type of factor occurred.”
The brothers by no means did reconcile. Whereas they’re buried in the identical cemetery, their graves are about as far aside as potential. However one in all their descendents determined the household feud had gone on lengthy sufficient.
Frank Dassler is the grandson of Rudolf Dassler and grew up residing and respiratory Puma. Rising up, he had no contact in any respect along with his great-uncle Adolf’s household.
“They stayed form of enemies throughout the remainder of their lives,” he mentioned. “It is definitely unhappy, however from a enterprise standpoint it was a very good choice, because it motivated each corporations to innovate.”
The Adidas “World of Sports activities” headquarters
However nowadays, Frank Dassler sits not in Puma’s new glass-and-steel headquarters on the financial institution of the river, however in an workplace on the Adidas campus additional north, on the positioning of a former American military barracks. Two years in the past, he took a job because the Adidas Group’s head authorized counsel.
“My stepmother and my stepbrother weren’t very blissful about this choice, they thought it will be a betrayal towards my grandfather,” he mentioned.
His taboo breaking raised quite a lot of eyebrows within the city and the native newspapers weren’t at all times so type.
“However this rivalry was years in the past, it is historical past now,” he mentioned.
Misplaced its punch
Certainly, younger folks right now appear little involved with the once-intense rivalry.
Puma’s had new energy in its spring for the previous few years
“It is not so sturdy anymore. It was like that earlier than, however now, I do not assume folks care a lot,” mentioned 14-year-old Teresa, who was sporting Puma sneakers however carrying an Adidas bag. “Generally Puma has one thing higher, typically Adidas. It simply relies upon.”
However Hermann Lindner, 41, who was along with his household (all sporting Puma) at a pageant for the Argentinian group who’s staying within the city for the World Cup, says the 2 camps have not completely folded up their tents.
“No, it is not as excessive because it was once, however you continue to discover individuals who keep on with Puma and different who solely put on Adidas,” he mentioned. “Folks do make the excellence.”
And whereas most assume issues are higher now that rivalry has cooled, some knew take advantage of it when it was raging, Frank Dassler says. He remembers that when handymen would come to work at his grandfather’s home, they’d typically put on Adidas sneakers on goal. When Rudolf would see their footwear, he’d inform them to go to the basement and select a pair of Puma sneakers, which they may have totally free.
“Rudolf merely could not stand the truth that somebody was sporting an Adidas shoe in his personal dwelling,” Dassler mentioned.