Richard Rashke

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Richard L. Rashke (born 1936[1]) is an American journalist, teacher and author, who has written non-fiction books, as well as plays and screenplays.[2] He is especially known for his history, Escape from Sobibor, first published in 1983, an account of the mass escape in October 1943 of hundreds of Jewish prisoners from the extermination camp at Sobibor in German occupied Poland. The book was adapted as a 1987 TV movie by the same name, starring Rutger Hauer.

Early life and education[edit]

Richard Rashke was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Guy and Angeline (Luksich) Rashke.[3] He had an older brother Donald.[3] Richard attended local schools and was interested in writing.

Literary career[edit]

After working as a journalist, Rashke started pursuing his own topics. His first book was about a deacon in the Roman Catholic Church, published by Paulist Press in 1975.

He followed the widespread publicity about Karen Silkwood, her death, and the suit which her family brought against her former company, Kerr-McGee. Her life and activism, and suspicious death, became the subject of his second book, Killing Karen Silkwood, published by Houghton-Mifflin in 1981.

Becoming interested in the story of resistance showed by hundreds of Jews who escaped from Sobibor, a German Nazi extermination camp in Poland, Rashke did research and interviewed survivors for his 1983 book, Escape from Sobibor. It was adapted as a 1987 TV movie by the same name, starring the actor Rutger Hauer.

One of the survivors of Sobibor whom Rashke interviewed was Esther Raab. As a result of her talks about her experience, she received many letters, which she shared with Rashke, as she said they helped her heal. His play about her and the influence of the letters, Dear Esther, premiered in 1998 in Washington, DC at the National Holocaust Museum.

Drawn to compelling personal stories, Rashke has studied subjects including Bill Lear, an aviation engineer and inventor who did not get beyond seventh grade; Pat Bennett, a woman abandoned by her husband who reared three daughters alone; and Tracy Sparshot, an undercover policeman working on the narcotics trade in Montgomery County, Maryland.

Marriage and family[edit]

Rashke is married to Paula Rashke. They live in Washington, DC.



  • The Deacon in Search of Identity (Paulist Press: 1975)
  • The Killing of Karen Silkwood: The Story Behind the Kerr-McGee Plutonium Case (1981/2nd edition, 2000)
  • Escape From Sobibor (1983/reprint 1995, University of Illinois Press)
  • Stormy Genius: The Life of Aviation's Maverick Bill Lear (1985)
  • Runaway Father: The True Story of Pat Bennett, Her Daughters, and Their Seventeen-Year Search (2nd edition, 1991)
  • Trust Me (2001)
  • Useful Enemies: John Demjanjuk and America's Open-Door Policy For Nazi War Criminals (Delphinium Books, 2013)


  • Dear Esther, premiered 1998 at the National Holocaust Museum
  • Season to Season
  • Bang


  1. ^ Brown, Jean E. (1997). Images from the Holocaust: a literature anthology. NTC Pub. Group. p. 579. 
  2. ^ Richard Rashke, Escape from Sobibor, University of Illinois Press, 1995, accessed 16 October 2012
  3. ^ a b Obituary: "Donald Rashke", Chron (Houston Chronicle), 14 September 2012