26 March 1898|
Herzogenaurach, Kingdom of Bavaria, German Empire
|Died||27 October 1974
Herzogenaurach, West Germany
|Known for||Founder of Puma|
Rudolf Dassler (26 March 1898, Herzogenaurach, (Germany) - 27 October 1974, Herzogenaurach) was the German founder of the sportswear company Puma and the older brother of Adidas founder, Adolf "Adi" Dassler. The brothers were partners in a shoe company Adi started, Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik (Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory). Rudi joined in 1924, however the brothers became rivals following World War II and started their own companies in 1948.
Initially calling the new company "Ruda" (Rudolf Dassler), it was soon changed to its present name of Puma. Puma is the native Quechua word for cougar, from there it went into German as well as other languages, such as Spanish, French, Russian, Romanian, Portuguese, Italian, Polish, Czech, Bulgarian, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Finnish, Croatian, Serbian and Slovene.
Adolf Dassler, Rudolf's younger brother, started to produce sports shoes in his mother's wash kitchen after his return from World War I. His father, Christoph, who worked in a shoe factory, and the brothers Zehlein, who produced the handmade spikes for track shoes in their blacksmith's shop, supported Adolf in starting his own business. In 1924, Rudolf joined the business, which became the Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik (Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory). Rudolf was affectionately known as 'Bobby' because this was the only sound that he could make for the first three years of his life.
With the rise of Adolf Hitler in the 1930s, both Dassler brothers joined the Nazi Party, with Rudolf reputed as being the more ardent National Socialist.
Adolf served the Wehrmacht at the beginning of the war for one year on the west front. Rudolf was drafted in March 1943 fighting the red army in the east, and was captured April 1945 by the Gestapo for Absence Without Leave, on the way to Dachau concentration camp, so the legend goes, he was freed by US troops, only to be imprisoned again as a POW in Hammelburg. Adolf had stayed behind to produce boots for the Wehrmacht.
During the war, a growing rift between the pair reached a breaking point after an Allied bomb attack in 1943 when Adi and his wife climbed into a bomb shelter that Rudolf and his family were already in: "The dirty bastards are back again," Adi said, apparently referring to the Allied war planes, but Rudolf was convinced his brother meant him and his family. Rudolf, upon his capture by American troops, was suspected of being a member of the SS, information supposedly supplied by Adolf.
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