Denied PhD by Nazis for Jewish Roots, Woman Earns it 77 Yrs On

Published: 02nd June 2015 08:29 AM  |   Last Updated: 02nd June 2015 08:29 AM   |  A+A-


BERLIN: A 102-year-old German woman is set to become the oldest person to receive a doctorate which will be awarded to her by the Hamburg University next week, 77 years after the Nazis blocked it because she was Jewish.

Ingeborg Rapoport, a Berlin- based medical professor who retired more than three decades ago, has been granted the PhD for a dissertation on diphtheria that she finished in 1938, aged 25. Her exam forms at the time were marked with a yellow stripe because her mother was Jewish, and so she was barred from the crucial viva voce exam, where candidates are questioned face to face by a panel of academics.

Last year, her son, Tom, a Harvard medical professor, contacted Hamburg University and asked whether it would consider giving his mother her degree, but it insisted that she follow the rules and agree to a viva examination, British daily The Times reported.

To prepare, Rapoport, an expert in neonatal medicine, spent months studying developments in diptheria studies in the intervening decades — and passed the oral examination held at her flat in Berlin. Uwe Koch-Gromus, Hamburg University’s dean of medicine, who led the viva, was quoted as saying, “It was a very good test. Frau Rapoport has gathered notable knowledge about what’s happened since then.

Particularly given her age, she was brilliant” She will receive the doctoral degree at a ceremony on June 9. Rapoport will become, by all available evidence, the oldest person ever to receive a doctoral degree. Guinness World Records has cited a 97- year-old German as the oldest recipient of a doctorate.

Rapoport, who emigrated penniless to the United States in 1938, qualified as a medical doctor and worked there until 1950. She returned to Germany with the man she married in 1944, Samuel Mitja Rapoport, because the couple were under investigation by American authorities who suspected them of being communists.


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