During the occupation, Raoul Laporterie saved hundreds of Jews and Christians who wanted to flee the Germans by crossing into the Unoccupied Zone. On innumerable occasions, Laporterie drove his battered car, a Juva 4, from one zone to another, bearing passengers, letters, clothes, jewelry, money, and even a bride’s dowry. Laporterie was able to make these trips because he was the mayor of Bascons, in the département of Landes in the Unoccupied Zone, and owned a store in Mont-de-Marsan, the capital of Landes, in the Occupied Zone. Because he had to commute between the two zones in the course of his work, the Germans gave him a pass to cross the checkpoint at the Demarcation Line. Everyone knew Laporterie and recognized his car, and he quickly earned a reputation for trustworthiness. Many people asked him for help, and families that had been divided sought his assistance in tracing their loved ones or joining relatives who had already fled to the Unoccupied Zone. With his help, lovers who had been separated were reunited, and refugees, businesspeople, and many others passed from zone to zone. Anyone wishing to navigate the checkpoint had to show a pass. Because Laporterie had many blank passes, he glued his passengers’ photographs to the passes and instructed them to be calm and behave naturally as they approached the checkpoint. The Germans, who knew him well, did not suspect him and allowed him and his passengers to continue. Laporterie endangered himself on these trips; had he been caught misusing German documents, he would have been severely punished. Nevertheless, Laporterie never sought remuneration for his actions, asking his passengers only for their photographs, without which he could not have deceived the Germans or used their passes. Laporterie’s assistance to the refugees did not stop there. Jews who found their way to Mont-de-Marsan with his assistance, in their efforts to reach the Unoccupied Zone, were given shelter for a night or two in his home or in a hotel at his expense, until he was able to deliver them across the Demarcation Line.
In 1945, the French Government awarded Laporterie the Croix de Guerre in appreciation of all he had done during the occupation. In November 1945, to mark this distinction, several Jewish survivors whom he had helped, wrote to Laporterie extolling his courage, devotion, and patriotism during the occupation, noting that, at great personal risk, he had kept many refugees out of the Germans’ clutches and lead them to safety.
On March 18, 1976, Yad Vashem recognized Raoul Laporterie as Righteous Among the Nations.