The Unabomber's Brother Tells His Story For the first time, David Kaczynski has written about the man he grew up with, admired and ultimately alerted authorities to. His essay is part of a new collection, Brothers: 26 Stories of Love and Rivalry.
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The Unabomber's Brother Tells His Story

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The Unabomber's Brother Tells His Story


A man name David Kaczynski lives upstate New York, where he's executive director of New Yorkers for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. You may already be wondering, is he any relation to - well, yes. David Kaczynski is the younger brother of Theodore Kaczynski, the Unabomber, who's now in prison for running what amounts to a terrorist by mail campaign.

From 1978 to 1995, Theodore Kaczynski mailed 16 bombs that killed three people and injured 23. He was identified and arrested largely because his brother David had begun to suspect that he was the Unabomber and contacted authorities.

David Kaczynski has now written about his relationship with the brother he grew up with and admired. It appears in a new collection called "Brothers: 26 Stories of Love and Rivalry."

David Kaczynski joins us from member station WAMC in Albany, New York.

Mr. Kaczynski, thanks so much for being with us.

Mr. DAVID KACZYNSKI (Author): Scott, thanks for having me on.

SIMON: I'm going to ask the same question to begin with that I promise to end with. Do you love your brother?

Mr. KACZYNSKI: I do. I've always loved Ted. It's something I've never doubted, even though my faith in him has been shaken.

SIMON: There's seven years age difference between you. Reading through the account of your childhood together, he was considered to have a special cast of mind. And yet, you know, he didn't torture animals. He didn't spew hate.

Mr. KACZYNSKI: Certainly he didn't fit the profile of an antisocial person. As you said, he loved animals. He didn't torture animals. I remember approaching our mother at one point and asking, Mom, what's wrong with Ted and why doesn't he have friends?

And, Mom, I think, you know, really - it's kind of a healthy thing for a parent to say when they get a question like this - said, you know, people are different. You know, your brother likes to read. He likes to work on things. He likes to be by himself, that's fine. You're social. You like people. People like you. That's fine too. Everybody doesn't have to be the same.

But when I pressed her a little farther, she talked to me about an experience Ted had had as a tiny infant. At nine months he had to be hospitalized for a rash that had covered his body. Mom told me at that point that she believes Ted had been traumatized by that early experience, that as a little baby they couldn't explain to him what was going on, that this was all for his own benefit and that he had somehow felt deeply, deeply abandoned.

And at that point Mom actually said, David, don't ever abandon your brother because that's what he fears the most. And I always remembered that story as, you know, as Ted behaved a little bit strangely or he didn't seem trusting of people. I thought, gee, it's that experience that continues to haunt him.

SIMON: Can I get you to tell the story about when the two of you went camping, and you were in Nebraska looking up at the stars?

Mr. KACZYNSKI: Yeah, there were a couple of summers I'd spent with Ted. And in the mid to late '60s Ted had said that he was quitting his job as a professor. And I remember, as we were driving back home, it was probably late August, and at that point I'd had enough of camping. I was ready to get back to my life, back to college, back to my girlfriend, back to home, and regular baths and meals.

I remember we were camped out in a county park in Nebraska and it was a kind of a wonderful, wonderful evening. There was like a strong breeze but it was a very warm breeze. And we were lying side-by-side in this field with the grass stirring and the breeze, looking up at this immense clear starry sky. And I remember saying to Ted, gee, I wish we were home. And Ted said, I really wish we didn't have to go back.

It was a defining difference. You know, I was connected to other people and Ted, I think, felt most comfortable when he was by himself or with his little brother, who once told me was I was the only person he'd ever loved. It's ironic now, because I'd give anything to have that moment back and see Ted again and share some of that intimacy and innocence.

SIMON: You don't hear from him at all?

Mr. KACZYNSKI: You know, Mom writes to him every week. Mom's 92 years old now, not in the best of health but very clear in her mind, and nothing would mean more to her than if Ted were to respond. I write him less frequently -birthday, Christmas, if something's going on with Mom's health. And to date he has never responded.

He told his lawyers, when he had lawyers, that he wanted nothing to do with his family. As I see it, as Mom sees it, he's really in two prisons - one is the maximum security prison where he'll spend the rest of his life, the other this prison of mental illness.

SIMON: So I have to ask: at the end your brother killed innocent people, not by mistake or even in a moment of rage, but deliberately applied his widely heralded brilliance to figuring out crude ways to kill people. Do you love him?

Mr. KACZYNSKI: I absolutely reject what he did. I know that if he had not been ill he wouldn't have done these things. I also believe that within my brother there is a core of sanity and goodness. I saw too much evidence of it as I was growing up to believe that it could simply disappear.

Ted was brilliant in certain respects. He had high levels of skills. Many people with mental illness are very, very bright. But Ted was delusional. He was living in a world that was disconnected from other people, disconnected from his own core self, I believe.

I love Ted. I don't know if he understands that. And you know, a brother - it's interesting to me in reading this book and many stories, a wide range of stories about brother relationships, and of course we all experience that differently, but I did sense a common thread, that your brother in some sense is a fellow traveler in your life's journey, and you're taking this journey through the universe.

And to me that sense of connection during my formative years makes it impossible to ever disown my brother.

SIMON: Mr. Kaczynski, thanks so much.

Mr. KACZYNSKI: Thanks, Scott.

SIMON: David Kaczynski. He writes about his older brother, Ted Kaczynski, in a new collection, "Brothers: 26 Stories of Love and Rivalry."

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SIMON: And you can find an excerpt of David Kaczynski's essay from the collection, "Brothers," at our Web site,

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