Ingeborg Syllm-Rapoport finally received the chance to defend her doctoral thesis, some 80 years after Nazis denied her the chance because she was Jewish.

Syllm-Rapoport, now 102, subsequently became the oldest doctoral recipient in Germany 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, an opportunity the Nazis made sure she did not originally have.


“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.