Raoul Laporterie was a Frenchman who acted as a hero in WWII by saving the lives of hundreds of Jews from the hands of the German Nazis during the occupation of the 1940s. Growing up in France, Laporterie eventually made it into the field of politics. He became the mayor of the town of Bascons.
Before and during the war, Laporterie was a good man who was well respected by his countrymen and the German officers that eventually came to occupy his town in France. Mr. Laporterie was an intelligent man, and he got involved in rescue for two main reasons. The first reason was that he felt it was a horrible crime against humanity for the Nazis to deport Jews to concentration camps. Being an esteemed mayor of Bascons, Laporterie became aware of the intentions of the German Nazis relatively early in their occupation. This feeling of unbridled altruism towards the plight of the Jews is the first and most apparent reason for his helping of the unfortunate sect. The second reason for his motivation to help the Jews was the simple fact that he could help the Jews.
In France during the WWII, many righteous gentiles who saved the lives of unfortunate victims of the Holocaust were not excessively wealthy or in a position of high power, especially in France. Raoul Laporterie on the other hand was in a position of political power. His home town of Bascons was actually not in the occupied zone of the Nazis. This means that they had no political or military power in the area. He did however own a store in the town of Monte-de-Marsan, a section of France that was occupied. He used his façade of political power to his advantage by smuggling thousands of Jews out across the Demarcation line. This was done in a relatively routine and simple process.
Laporterie would often need to drive out to his store in Monte-de-Marsan in order to run routine business transactions. While in town he would pick up a number of Jews and simply have them sit in his car. In order to make the Jews presentable he would even buy them clothing and accessories to make it seem as though they were simply wealthy business associates of his. Laporterie would then wait to drive out of town at a time when the Nazi guards were about to switch posts. This was done because it ensured a greater chance that the impatient guards would think less about the people in Mr. Laporterie’s car, and would be thinking more about ending their shift and going to sleep. This tactic was extremely successful. Added insurance was given when Laporterie would put photos of his Jews on extra occupation zone passes that he had obtained. This would ensure that the Nazis would not second guess his motives.
The risks Laporterie took were astronomical. Had he been caught by the SS during one of his Jew-smuggling schemes, he would have not only been reprimanded by Nazi law, but could have also easily been killed by the Germans on the spot. He put himself and the lives of his family in danger by acting in the way that he did. Nevertheless, he acted with bravery and honor.
Because of Laporterie’s work, families that had been separated during the occupation were put back together, and loved ones who were had ties cut from one another were reunited in a glorious manner. After the war in 1945, the French government honored him for his courage and for his altruistic actions. Many Jews wrote letters describing his kindness, courage, devotion, and patriotism. On March 18, 1976 Yad Vashem recognized Raoul Laporterie as Righteous among the Nations.