Peter Schlechtriem, a great researcher, person, teacher and colleague, has passed away. The people who knew him admired and respected him as an exceptionally wise and intelligent scholar, an energetic advocate for comparative legal science, a person with a great heart, whose amiability and helpfulness will never be forgotten by those who experienced it. His clear and simple style, which made every discussion he participated in an enjoyable insight into complicated legal discourses, is unforgettable.
Peter Schlechtriem was born in Jena, studied law in Hamburg and received a Doctoral level degree in 1964 in Freiburg, while working as an assistant to Professor Ernst von Caemmerer. Throughout his life Schlechtriem was involved with the University of Freiburg. After receiving a Master’s level degree in Comparative Law in 1964/1965 at the University of Chicago, he returned to Freiburg and was habilitated in 1970, again under the supervision of Professor von Caemmerer. Cooperation with one of the most renowned jurists was decisive in his later activities as a researcher and teacher. From 1971–1977 Professor Schlechtriem worked as a Professor in the University of Heidelberg and was the Director of the Institute of Private International Law. After returning to Freiburg, he became a successor of Professor von Caemmerer and Co-director of the Institute for Foreign and International Private Law, until the year 2000. From 1970–1977 he was the President of the Comparative Law Society (GesellschaftfürRechtsvergleichung). In 1995 he was elected Honorary Doctor of the University of Basel and in 2002 Honorary Doctor of the University of Tartu. Schlechtriem worked as a Visiting Professor for the Universities of Oxford, Chicago, Harvard, Wellington, Fribourg and Zurich.
Professor Schlechtriem was an internationally acclaimed and known specialist in commercial law and participated in drafting the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods and the UNIDROIT Principles of International Commercial Contracts. He made an invaluable contribution to the harmonisation and development of the European law of obligations. He was a member of the Study Group for a European Civil Code, member of the UNIDROIT II principles working group, and advisor to the American Law Institute. He was a creator and developer of today’s theory of unjustified enrichment.
In addition to that, he had the time and willingness to be present at the development of Estonian law of obligations, to contribute his knowledge and experience and to make his best efforts to make the Estonian Law of Obligations Act not only a carrier of modern principles and approaches, but also a practical and effective system of provisions. Several young Estonian researchers have written their Doctoral and Master’s theses under the supervision of Schlechtriem. For them it was an inexhaustible experience, luck and opportunity that will never be forgotten. His textbooks were the first Estonian textbooks on the law of obligations. His students were the first to present to Estonian legal practitioners the European way of thinking, understanding of law and its role in society. Schlechtriem was a foreign member of the editorial boards of the law journal Juridica International. His support gave Estonian jurists an opportunity to actively participate in drafting the European Civil Code. He made an invaluable contribution to the advocation of Estonian legal science, offering publishing opportunities to our jurists, and introducing the findings of Estonian civil law science to the entire world.
It is hard to believe that we can no longer ask for advice and benefit from the simple answers to complicated questions from a colleague who has been a good friend and loyal companion for many years. It was a great honour and privilege for all of us to know Peter Schlechtriem.
In memory of Peter Schlechtriem. The Faculty of Law of the University of Tartu.