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German Pediatrician Gets PhD — 77 Years After Denied by Nazis

A German pediatrician has passed her PhD defense exam at the age of 102, after being denied the opportunity by the Nazis.

Ingeborg Syllm-Rapoport passed the exam last Wednesday at the University of Hamburg, some 77 years after she completed her thesis on diphtheria.

She had been refused entrance to the oral exam in 1938 by the Nazi authorities because her mother was Jewish.

“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.”

She 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.

She retired in 1973 from Berlin’s renowned Charite Hospital as a full professor of pediatrics and head of the Neonatology Department.

She will receive her doctoral certificate on June 9.

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