Originally posted on WSJ.
Ingeborg Rapoport was 25 when she wrote her doctoral thesis, but she had to wait until Wednesday to defend it before an academic committee—77 years later.
Ms. Rapoport, a 102-year-old retired neonatologist who lives in Berlin, submitted her thesis to the University of Hamburg in 1938, five years after Adolf Hitler took power. Her topic was diphtheria, an infectious disease that was then a leading cause of death among children in the U.S. and Europe.
Ms. Rapoport’s professor, a one-time Nazi party member, praised her work, she recalled. But that wasn’t enough. “I was told I wasn’t permitted to take the oral examination,” she said.
Academic authorities in Berlin cited “racial reasons” for the ban: Ms. Rapoport, née Syllm, was raised as a Protestant, but her mother was Jewish, making her “a first-degree crossbreed” in Nazi parlance. Officials marked her exam forms with a telltale yellow stripe and deemed her ineligible for academic advancement.
“My medical existence was turned to rubble,” said Ms. Rapoport. “It was a shame for science and a shame for Germany.”
Her treatment was hardly unique: Thousands of “non-Aryan” students and professors were pushed out of universities in Hitler’s Third Reich, and many died in death camps.
She and her family were spared that fate, though the University of Hamburg fervidly embraced the new order. Its dean declared the school “the first national-socialist institute of higher learning in the Reich,” styling himself the university’s Führer-Rektor and setting up new faculties of race biology and colonial law. Among the professors who ran afoul of the Nazis was Ms. Rapoport’s professor, Rudolf Degkwitz, whose expression of outrage over euthanasia…