102-Year-Old German Woman Gets Her PhD 77 Years Late

Zohaib Ahmed
She had to wait 77 years to finally get what Nazis wouldn't let her have.

Oldest Recipient Of a PhD

A 102-year-old German woman has passed her doctorate exam some 77 years after she was denied the opportunity by the Nazi government.

Centenarian Ingeborg Syllm-Rapoport said she has never been more delighted after the University of Hamburg awarded her long overdue PhD last week even though she had completed her doctoral thesis on diphtheria in 1938. The neonatal expert should've been awarded the title there and then but her university was ordered by the Nazis to not let her take her final oral exam due to her Jewish heritage.

“This is about principle, not about me," Dr Rapaport is quoted as saying by the Tagesspiegel newspaper. "The university wanted to put right past wrongs and have demonstrated great patience, for which I am thankful.”

Having seen her dream taken away from her, Rapoport left Germany for the U.S. where more struggles waited her as she didn't have the paperwork to prove that she had a PhD.

“My final exams [from Germany] carried no weight so I had to study there for two more year, I had to overcome a lot of hurdles,” she added. "I hadn’t anticipated what it would have meant not getting my title."

Following the fall of the Nazi regime, she moved back to Germany and became a professor of neonatology at the Charité hospital. But the Nazi influence still existed at her university for which she couldn't claim what she deserved.

However, a few years ago, she was encouraged by her friends to take up the matter with the university, which seemed very receptive this time. She updated her research and submitted it for approval, meaning she has now become possibly the oldest in the world to be awarded a doctorate degree.

“With this belated graduation we cannot make up for the injustice that has already occurred but we can contribute to working through the darkest sides of German history at universities,” Dr Uwe Koch-Gromus told the DPA news agency.

The certificate will be officially presented to Rapaport on June 2 at a special ceremony in Hamburg.