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Denied under Nazis, 102-year-old Jewish woman gets doctorate

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Published on June 12, 2015 with No Comments

Ingeborg Syllm-Rapoport was not allowed to defend her doctoral thesis in 1938 under the Nazis because she was part-Jewish.
Nearly eight decades later, she became Germany’s oldest recipient of a doctorate at age 102.
The neonatologist, a specialist in caring for newborns, cleared the final hurdle last month by passing an oral exam. She received her doctorate in a celebratory ceremony at the University of Hamburg.”After almost 80 years, it was possible to restore some extent of justice,” Burkhard Goeke, the medical director of the university’s hospital, said in his speech. “We cannot undo injustices that have been committed, but our insights into the past shape our perspective for the future.”
Syllm-Rapoport stressed in her acceptance speech that she went through all the efforts of getting the degree at her advanced age not for herself, but for all the others who suffered from injustice during the Third Reich.
“For me personally, the degree didn’t mean anything, but to support the great goal of coming to terms with history, I wanted to be part of that,” Syllm-Rapoport told German public television station NDR.
After the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, they gradually disenfranchised Jews, expelling them from universities, schools and many professions, before eventually deporting and killing them in death camps across Europe.When Syllm-Rapoport handed in her doctorate thesis, her supervisor at the time, Rudolf Degkwitz, wrote in a letter in 1938 that he would have accepted her work on diphtheria if it had not been for the Nazis’ race laws which, he said, “make it impossible to allow Miss Syllm’s admission for the doctorate.” Syllm-Rapoport emigrated to the United States in 1938 without a degree.

 

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