Rescue in an Old Renault

Stand for Israel  |  January 17, 2023

Renault Juvaquatre
(Photo: wikicommons/Lars-Göran Lindgren Sweden)

The tale of Raoul Laporterie is a tale of two cities…and the saving of hundreds of lives, both Christian and Jewish, during the Holocaust.

Laporterie was the mayor of Bascons, a small commune in southern France, during the Nazi occupation. Bascons was not occupied by the Nazis. However, the Germans did hold the nearby town of Mont-de-Marsan, where Raoul owned a shop. Because Raoul had to go back and forth, the Nazis gave him a special pass that allowed him freedom of movement. Little did the evil Nazis know, this pass would be used for a thousand good deeds.

You see, Raoul hated how the Nazis treated people, especially French Jews. So as he made his business trips across the Nazi checkpoint in his battered old Renault, he also began carrying cargo other than goods. Armed with hundreds of blank passes, Raoul would photograph Jews or other refugees fleeing the Nazis, glue their picture to a pass, and ferry them to safety. The Nazis, used to the Frenchman’s frequent trips, suspected nothing, though if Raoul had been discovered, it very well could have cost him his life.

But Raoul Laporterie did not worry. Driving his battered and broken-down Renault Juva 4, he reunited families, lovers, and others who had been separated. With only his wits and his old jalopy, Raoul saved hundreds of lives throughout the course of the war. After the war was over, many Jews who had survived the Holocaust wrote to this man, thanking him for his bravery and love. And in 1976, Yad Vashem at last named Raoul Laporterie Righteous Among the Nations.

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