Neonatologist, 102, receives Ph.D. denied by Nazis
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Neonatologist, 102, receives Ph.D. denied by Nazis

'This is about principle, not about me'

A 102-year-old German neonatologist passed her doctoral defense exam, nearly eight decades after the Nazis denied her the opportunity to take the test.

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

She completed her thesis on diphtheria in 1938, but Nazi authorities refused to allow her to take the oral exam 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. “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 fell victim to the anti-Communist witch-hunt of the 1950s.

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