ELSA was founded in 1981 in Vienna by law students from Austria, Poland, Hungary and the Federal Republic of Germany. Starting with that, different National Groups developed.
Even before, on the 18th of January 1981, ELSA Germany was founded in the bavarian city of Bayreuth with 17 members. The association was registered in Berlin and is formally still existing although there were no internal meetings since 1983 and there’s only one person known from the last registered board. We know from him that the association was very familiar at that time. It was a group of around 20 students being interested in internationality of law studies and there were speeches organized or a national seminar from time to time, but not with too much interest of others. It’s not known if there were already local groups back then in Germany.
On the 9th of July 1984 the newly elected President writes to the registry court that the elections in July 1983 haven’t been according to the statutes and that he withdraws the registration of the board. No new board was registered and there was never a new election. The old board didn’t see themselves as responsible or was not even in Berlin anymore – ELSA wasn’t active anymore. Rumors that political influences or financial irregularities leaded to that situation were never proven.
However, on the international level ELSA’s development continued. There were different national groups with mostly one local group per country. In March 1988 there were already 15 different national groups: Austria, Poland, Hungary – the three founders, all four Scandinavian countries, Iceland, The United Kindom, The Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Portugal, Malta and Jugoslavia.
The Beginning in Vienna
ELSA wasn’t active in Germany till 1986 when a law student from Heidelberg was studying in Vienna and there came in touch with ELSA. Back in Germany he was looking for at least 7 students to found the German section of ELSA. The interest of other students was quite low in the beginning, but Professors were interested in it: One of them – a famous law Professor – promoted ELSA in one of his courses pretty much so that ELSA Heidelberg got 15 Members. With Speeches and Travels ELSA Heidelberg was trying to get more interest but that wasn’t really successful so ELSA was a kind of a circle of friends at that time.
Expulsion from ELSA International and Observer Status
ELSA The Federal Republic of Germany was legally still existing – also in ELSA International from the founding. The board of ELSA Heidelberg was for one year at the same time the board of ELSA Germany. At the International Council Meeting in Helsinki in 1988 that board proposed the expulsion of ELSA The Federal Republic of Germany to get rid of old debts and liabilities. At the same time they requested the observership status in ELSA International which was also approved by the Council to get Germany back as an ELSA member as fast as possible.
Breakthrough in Germany and refounding of ELSA The Federal Republic of Germany
In January 1989 an article was published in a well known law magazine where ELSA Heidelberg promoted an information event about ELSA. Even though they didn’t expect too much interest in that event there where around 120 participants from all over Germany. During that event they got to know that there were other ELSA groups already existing in Bonn and Cologne, but with statutes that were incompatible with those of ELSA International.
There were also statutes for a new founding of ELSA Germany prepared by the students from Heidelberg. However, due to ongoing discussions the founding had to be moved half a year. At the International Council Meeting in Lisbon 1989 the Germans took over the organization for the next ICM but one. Meanwhile there were already 14 local groups founded in Germany. Working on that big project of organizing that kind of a big event bound the ELSAnians in Germany together. So it was possible to found ELSA The Federal Republic of Germany in July 1989 at the National Council Meeting in Muenster, although the financing and structure of the association where still discussed controversial. Because of their experience in ELSA work most of the board members of the first German board came from Heidelberg.