The Story of Adidas ‘Adolf (Adi) Dassler’ (Advanced English Lesson)

Essas aulas de inglês são para alunos intermediários e avançados de inglês como segunda língua. Eles incluem “Ler”, “Ouvir” e “Escrever”. Basta seguir a lição respondendo às perguntas à medida que as encontra. Todas as vagas em negrito devem ser traduzidas para seu próprio idioma para ajudar na compreensão do novo vocabulário.

How Adolf (Adi) Dassler’s  Nazi-Era  Sports-Shoe Company Became Adidas And Puma



Typical three strips of the Adidas trademarked sports shoes.
Typical three strips of the Adidas trademarked sports shoes.

My motivation for creating this English lesson about Adi Dassler came from a conversation with my wife about my previous lesson “The History of Levi Strauss”  It became apparent that students make  fundamental errors when using and pronouncing English words and names. For example students pronounce the name ‘Levi’ as Leve. I guess this is because the sounds of the letters ‘a’, ‘e’, and ‘i’ are different in Portuguese than in English.

And so after correcting students about the pronunciation of Levi’s name I thought it would be interesting also to introduce my students to Adi Dassler the German creator of Adidas sport-shoes. I guess it’s surprising to see a heading title with the words Adidas and Nazi in the same sentence. However, before we jump to any conclusions, let’s find out more about the brothers and their companys. Here is his story.


A bitter feud between German trainer giants Rudolf and Adolf Dassler saw that their company split into the two behemoths we know today. Adolf Dassler (right), who was the founder of Adidas, began his brand as a small family business alongside his brother. But irreconcilable differences saw them split their company — and town — into two.

1). Question: Write a short sentence telling me about a Brazilian company that could be described as a ‘behemoth’

Adi Dassler

Those brothers, Rudolf and Adolf Dassler, had built one of the most successful athleticwear empires in Nazi Germany from inside their parents’ house. But bad blood between the brothers saw their empire split into two separate behemoths that still dominate the market today: Adidas and Puma.

2). Question: Write a short sentence using the term ‘bad blood’

Woven into a simple pair of leather trainers were fraternal resentment, promiscuity, wartime betrayal, lifelong estrangement, and the fate of a town. But these things, along with the fascist roots of two athleticwear giants, have been all but forgotten.

3). Question: Write a short sentence using the past participle ‘woven’


Listen and watch the video below and then answer the questions below.


  1. In English English we call sports shoes trainers.  Do you own a pair of trainers (sports shoes)? If so which brand do you prefer or have in your shoe cupboard at the moment?
  2. What do we mean when we use the term ‘family feud’?
  3. Why was Jesse Owens a problem for the German Nazi party in the 1930s at the Berlin Olympics in 1936?
  4. In the video it suggests that ‘the spat’ that happened between Adi and Rudolf was because Rudolf had an affair with Adi’s wife ‘Cathy’. What does the word ‘spat’ mean and what is an ‘affair’?
  5. What is the value and share price of both Adidas and Puma on the New York stock exchange at the moment?  Do a Google search to find the share price and ‘total worth’ of each company.


Rudolf Dassler

The Dassler brothers first began sewing shoes in 1919 from the laundry room of their family home in Herzogenaurach, Germany.

They called their company Sportfarbrik Gebrüder Dassler or Geda for short. By 1927 the company had expanded to 12 additional workers, forcing the pair to find bigger quarters. The company hummed along with outgoing Rudolf as the salesman and shy Adolf as the designer. Among their feats was crafting the first metal-spiked trainers, known now as cleats or spikes.

4). Question: What are ‘spikes’ and what are ‘cleats’?

But the biggest moment in the shoemaker’s career came during the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

Like every Olympics, the games were held in the spirit of competition and bringing the best in the world together. In pre-World War II-era Germany, however, an influx of incredibly talented, diverse international athletes put the growth of Nazism at risk.

5). Question: Where are the next olympic games going to be held and when?


Indeed, non-white athletes challenged the ethic of Aryan supremacy and supreme athletes like Jesse Owens proved that white skin didn’t signal anything other than white skin.

Pictured together before the feud, Adi and Rudolf.

So why did two German-born brothers, both of who were Nazi Party members, give a pair of hand-crafted cleats to Jesse Owens?

The answer likely lies in marketing. The athletes the brothers had given shoes to received seven gold medals and five silver and bronze medals between them. Four of the golds belonged solely to Jesse Owens.

6). Question: Write a short definition of the term ‘aryan supremacy’

Jesse Owens became a demigod, and Adolf Dassler had crafted his winged sandals.

“The company would probably have gone through the ceiling,” historian Manfred Welker said in an interview with Business Insider. “But then the war came.”

Unfortunately from here, the story of Adidas and Puma becomes one of fraternal resentment. While no one is totally sure what exactly happened between the Dassler brothers, there are theories.

7). Question:  What is meant by the term ‘fraternal resentment’

One rumor claims that Adolf had arranged for Rudolf to be called upon by the German Army in 1943 as a means of getting him out of the business. Other records suggest that Rudolf Dassler had voluntarily enlisted, however.

Regardless, when Rudolf deserted in 1945, Adolf Dassler reportedly snitched to the Allies about his brother’s whereabouts, resulting in his imprisonment.

Even after the war ended and Nazism became uncouth, both brothers tried to paint the other as the bigger national socialist.


A more melodramatic theory posits that the two brothers and their families were forced into the same shelter during an Allied bombing. When he saw Rudolf and his family in the shelter, Adolf Dassler allegedly exclaimed: “The dirty bastards are back again.”

Adolf was likely referring to the planes, but Rudolf took it as a personal offense against him and his family.

All of this was just to say that finally, in 1948, the Dassler brothers officially washed their hands of each other and Adi’s brother went off and started his own business making shoes called ‘Puma’.

8). Question: What does the verb ‘to posit’ mean?

Have you got a question? You can chat with me right now. Simply click.


Write 150 words. Do you have any experience either in your own family or others families of sibling rivalry? In your writing explain the meaning of ‘sibling rivaly’ and describe your experience. Note: It doesn’t have to be true.


In your writing try to use one example of a comparative and one example of a superlative.




WORKSHEET Comparatives and Superatives Adjectives and adverbs

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Aryan  is supremacy an ideology of racial supremacy which views the supposed Aryan race as a distinct and superior racial group which is entitled to rule the rest of humanity.

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