German Neonatalogist, 102, Receives Ph.D. Denied by Nazis

Ingeborg Syllm-Rapoport completed her thesis on diphtheria in 1938, but was refused entrance to the oral exam by the Nazis because her mother was Jewish.

Dreamstime.com

A 102-year-old German neonatologist passed her doctoral defense exam nearly eight decades after she was denied the opportunity by the Nazis.

Ingeborg Syllm-Rapoport, a former professor of pediatrics and head of the neonatology department at Berlin’s prominent Charite Hospital, passed the exam on May 13 at the University of Hamburg.

She completed her thesis on diphtheria in 1938, but was refused entrance to the oral exam by the Nazi authorities because her mother was Jewish.

Syllm-Rapoport, who retired in 1973, will receive her doctoral certificate next month.

“This is about principle, not about me,” she told the Daily Tagesspiegel over the weekend. “I did not defend the work for my own sake; that whole situation was not easy for me at 102 years old. I did it for the victims. The university wanted to make amends for wrongs and has shown great patience, for which I am grateful.”

Syllm-Rapoport immigrated to the United States in 1938 and was required to study for two additional years to be certified as a doctor, despite graduating from a German medical school. She married in 1946 and the couple returned to Germany after her husband was persecuted by anti-Communist efforts during the McCarthy era.