BERLIN, Germany — Ingeborg Syllm-Rapoport, who became Germany’s oldest recipient of a doctorate almost 80 years after fleeing the Nazis, has passed away at the age of 104.
A specialist in newborn care, Syllm-Rapoport was widely cheered when she passed her oral exam at the University of Hamburg with flying colors in 2015 when she was 102-years-old.
Syllm-Rapoport, who was part-Jewish, moved to the United States in 1938 after being prevented from defending her doctoral thesis by the Nazis’ race laws.
After the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, they gradually disenfranchised Jews, expelling them from universities, schools and many professions, before eventually deporting and killing them in death camps across Europe.
When Syllm-Rapoport handed in her doctoral thesis, her supervisor at the time, Rudolf Degkwitz, wrote in a letter in 1938 that he would have accepted her work on diphtheria if it hadn’t been for the Nazis’ race laws which, he said, “make it impossible to allow Miss Syllm’s admission for the doctorate.”
After applying to several American universities, she eventually finished her degree in Philadelphia and worked as a pediatrician, before moving with her husband, a socialist like herself, to East Berlin in 1952. The mother of four was the first head of the neonatology department at Berlin’s Charite hospital.
Tom Rapoport announced his mother’s death on Thursday in Berlin. She is survived by four children, nine grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.
A funeral is planned in Berlin for May 12.