Ingeborg Syllm-Rapoport, 102, received her doctoral certificate at a ceremony on Tuesday, 77 years after finishing her dissertation on diphtheria in 1938. She had been refused entrance to the oral exam by the Nazi authorities because her mother was Jewish. On May 13, Syllm-Rapoport was finally able to take the PhD exam at the University of Hamburg and passed.
“This is about principle, not about me,” she told the Daily Tagesspiegel after the exam. “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, shortly before the start of World War II, and was required to study for two additional years in the US 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.