Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Herr Doktor Verbrecher

This one’s been making the rounds at the office: a Washington Post article that tells us about a little-known law in Germany under which it’s illegal to use the title “Doktor” unless your degree is from a German university.

At least seven U.S. citizens working as researchers in Germany have faced criminal probes in recent months for using the title “Dr.” on their business cards, Web sites and résumés. They all hold doctoral degrees from elite universities back home.

Under a little-known Nazi-era law, only people who earn PhDs or medical degrees in Germany are allowed to use “Dr.” as a courtesy title.

The law was modified in 2001 to extend the privilege to degree-holders from any country in the European Union. But docs from the United States and anywhere else outside Europe are still forbidden to use the honorific. Violators can face a year behind bars.

The article tells us that the law, around since the 1930s, hasn’t been enforced much recently, but that an “anonymous tipster” with an axe to grind made some complaints and set things in motion... and now, these American researchers are under investigation for the crime of “title abuse”.

It seems pretty silly, but I guess it’s quite an annoyance for those involved. And it’s just one more thing to watch out for when you’re travelling, along with making sure you aren’t charged with impersonating a priest at the Vatican.


briwei said...

Why impersonate a priest, anyway? Think big! Impersonate and Archbishop. Or the Pope!

lidija said...

This is a case of extreme stupidity I'd say (and I really am stunned that they followed through on these charges). But Germany is not alone among European countries (Spain comes to mind for sure) in making people jump through the hoops to "prove" degrees from major US universities.

Dr. Momentum said...

Kinda serves them right for impersonating a Doktor.

It's all about the hoops, yo!

lidija said...

So well put, Dr, all about the hoops indeed.