102-year-old German doctor defends thesis 80 years after Nazis deny her

German neonatologist Ingeborg Syllm-Rapoport in a discussion with nurses in a German hospital in 1985. Credit: The German National Archive via Wikimedia Commons.

(JNS.org) Eighty years after the Nazis denied Ingeborg Syllm-Rapoport the chance to defend her doctoral thesis because she was Jewish, she became the oldest doctoral recipient in Germany at the age of 102 on Tuesday.

Syllm-Rapoport, whose mother was Jewish and father was Protestant, is a well-known neonatologist in Germany. Prior to finally defending her doctoral degree in Germany, Syllm-Rapoport completed her degree in Philadelphia after moving to the U.S. in 1938. In 1952, she and her husband moved back to East Berlin, where she became the first head of the neonatology department at Berlin's Charite hospital.

On Tuesday, she received her belated German degree following her thesis defense in a ceremony at the University of Hamburg.

"After almost 80 years, it was possible to restore some extent of justice," said Burkhard Goeke, the medical director of the university's hospital, the Associated Press reported. "We cannot undo injustices that have been committed, but our insights into the past shape our perspective for the future."

"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 the German public television station NDR.

Posted on June 9, 2015 .