Woman, 102, to get doctorate, 77 year after Nazis blocked it

Berlin, Jun 1: 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 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 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 doctor and worked there until 1950. She returned to Germany with the man she had married in 1944, Samuel Mitja Rapoport, because the couple were under investigation by American authorities who suspected them of being communists.

She said that throughout her life she had felt slighted by the Nazi refusal of her degree. "My medical existence was turned to rubble. It was a shame for science and a shame for Germany," she said.

Thousands of "non-Aryan" students and professors were expelled from universities in the Third Reich and many were sent to death camps.

"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," Koch-Gromus said.


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