ELSA was founded on 4 May 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 18 January 1981, ELSA Germany was founded in the bavarian city of Bayreuth with 17 members. The association was registered in Berlin and formally still exists today, although no meetings or the like have taken place since 1983 and only one person could be found of the last registered board. According to his statements the association was very familiar at that time. It was a group of around 20 students being interested in the 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 is not known if there were already local groups back then in Germany.
On 9 July 1984, the then newly elected President wrote to the registry court that the elections in July 1983 had not taken place in accordance with the statutes and that he withdrew the registration of the board. No new board was registered and there was never a new election. The old board felt no longer responsible or was not even in Berlin anymore - ELSA wasn’t active anymore. Rumors that political influence or financial irregularities led to that situation were never proven.
At the international level, however, ELSA developed continuously. At first there was probably only one group per country, but there were different national groups. In March 1988 there were already 15 different national groupss: Austria, Poland, Hungary, i.e. the three founders, then all four Scandinavian countries, Iceland, The United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Portugal, Malta and Jugoslavia.
Beginnings in Vienna
ELSA wasn’t active in Germany until 1986 when a law student from Heidelberg was studying in Vienna and there came in touch with ELSA. Back in Germany, he posted a notice on the bulletin board to bring seven students together to set up a German section of ELSA. The initial interest of his fellow students was quite low at first. But professors were interested in it: During his lecture, a well-known professor from Heidelberg promoted ELSA in one of his courses pretty much so that ELSA Heidelberg got 15 members. Through events such as study trips and lectures, ELSA Heidelberg tried to increase others students‘ interest, but without groundbreaking success. During this time ELSA was more like a group of friends.
Expulsion from ELSA International and observer status
ELSA The Federal Republic Germany legally still existed – also in ELSA International from from the founding. For one year the board of ELSA Heidelberg was at the same time the board of ELSA Germany. In order to get rid of old debts and liabilities, the board of ELSA Heidelberg/Germany proposed the expulsion of ELSA The Federal Republic Germany from ELSA International at the International Council Meeting (ICM) in Helsinki in October 1988. 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 soon 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 announcing a free information event on ELSA in Heidelberg. Even though they didn‘t expecte too much interest in that event, there were around 120 participants from all over Germany. It turned out that ELSA groups already existed in Bonn and Cologne, of which none knew in advance and whose statutes were not compatible 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 was delayed half a year. At the International Council Meeting in Lisbon in 1989 the representatives of Germany took over the organisation of the next International Council Meeting. By this time, 14 ELSA Local Groups had already been founded in Germany. Working on that big project of organizing that kind of a big event bound the ELSA members in Germany together. so that then at the National Council Meeting in July 1989 in Muenster ELSA The Federal Republic Germany was founded, although the financing and the structure of the association were still discussed controversially. Due to their experience in active ELSA work, Heidelberg represented the vast majority of the first German National Board.