Christiane F. (born Vera Christiane Felscherinow on 20 May 1962) is a German actress and musician who is best known for her contribution to the 1979 autobiographical book Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo [We Children of Bahnhof Zoo], and the film based on the book, in which her teenage drug use is documented.
According to her book, Felscherinow was born in Hamburg, but her family moved to West Berlin when she was a child. They settled in Gropiusstadt, a neighbourhood in Neukölln that consisted mainly of high-rise concrete apartment blocks where social problems were prevalent. Felscherinow's father frequently drank large volumes of alcohol and was abusive towards his two daughters, while her mother was absorbed by an extra-marital relationship.
When she was 12 years old, she began smoking hashish with a group of friends who were slightly older, at a local youth club. They gradually began experimenting with stronger drugs, such as LSD and various forms of pills, and she ended up trying heroin. By the time she was 14, she was heroin-dependent and a prostitute, mainly at the then-largest train station of West Berlin Bahnhof Zoo. During this period, she became part of a group of teenage drug-users and sex workers of both sexes.
The making of Christiane F.
Two journalists from the news magazine Stern, Kai Hermann and Horst Rieck, met Felscherinow in 1978 in Berlin when she was a witness in a trial against a man who paid underaged girls with heroin in return for sex. The journalists wanted to disclose the drug problem among teenagers in Berlin, which was severe but also surrounded by strong taboos, and arranged a two-hour interview with Felscherinow. The two hours extended to two months, as Felscherinow provided an in-depth description of her life, as well as those of other teenagers, in West Berlin during the 1970s. The journalists subsequently ran a series of articles about her heroin use in Stern, based on the tape-recorded interviews with Felscherinow.
The interviews were extensive and the Stern publishing house eventually decided to publish the successful book Christiane F. – Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo in 1979. The book chronicles Felscherinow's life from 1975 to 1978, between the ages of 12 and 15 years, and depicts several of Felscherinow's friends, along with other drug users, as well as scenes from typical locations of the Berlin drug scene at the time. The narrative of the book is in the first person, from Felscherinow's viewpoint, but was written by the journalists functioning as ghostwriters. Others, such as Felscherinow's mother and various people who witnessed the escalating drug situation in Berlin at the time, also contributed to the book.
The American issue of the book was released by Bantam in 1982 under the title Christiane F.: Autobiography of a Girl of the Streets and Heroin Addict and was translated by Susanne Flatauer (ISBN 0553208977). As of October 2013, Felschernirow continues to receive monthly royalty payments of €2,000 (US$2,720) for the book Christiane F.
In 1981 the book was made into a film that was directed by Uli Edel, and produced by Bernd Eichinger and Hans Weth. The screenplay was written by Herman Weigel and Natja Brunckhorst played the role of the titular character. Its title in Germany was Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo, and in English-speaking countries Christiane F.
Much of the movie is shot in the actual surroundings of Gropiusstadt and Bahnhof Zoo. David Bowie, Christiane's favorite singer at the time of the interviews that informed the book, appears as himself in a concert. Bowie also provided the movie's soundtrack that was released in Germany in 1981.
In a December 2013 interview, Felscherinow stated that she attended the German premiere of the film with Bowie, who picked her up in a chauffeured limousine: "I thought David Bowie was going to be the star of my movie, but it was all about me." Felscherinow agreed that the film was an accurate portrayal of her life at the time, but revealed that she does not like the film "that much":
... it doesn't describe how I grew up, how I was neglected by my parents. My father was a drinker and he abused my sister and me. He was choleric and my mom just did nothing, She was more into her affair with another man and her beauty. I was so lonely when I was a kid. I just wanted to belong; I was struggling with the world.
After the initial success of the book and the film, Felscherinow found herself becoming something of a celebrity, both in Germany and other countries in Europe. A subculture of teenage girls in Germany began to emulate her style of dress and spent time around the Bahnhof Zoo station, which became an unlikely tourist attraction. This development concerned drug experts in the youth field, who feared that, despite the film's bleakness and numerous drug-related scenes (particularly those portraying the reality of heroin withdrawal), vulnerable teens might regard Felscherinow as a cult heroine and role model.
Between 1982 and 1985, Felscherinow lived in Zurich with the Keel family, owners of the Diogenese publishing house. During this time she met Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Patricia Highsmith and Patrick Süskind. In 2013 she explained that she "lived between literature stars and the heroin scene" and described Platzspitz park in Zurich as "like Disney World for junkies"; however, Felscherinow further explained that the area became "a heap of garbage" as people died after contracting the hepatitis C and HIV viruses, and rival gangs engaged in violent conflict.
In the early 1980s, Felscherinow's boyfriend was Alexander Hacke, from the German industrial band Einstürzende Neubauten, and together they released two albums under the moniker Sentimentale Jugend, including a cover version of the Rolling Stones song "Satisfaction", on the Das Cassetten Combinat label. They also appeared together in the 1983 German film Decoder, which also featured William S. Burroughs and Genesis P-Orridge. Felscherinow explained in 2013 that Hacke was a "friend of a friend" who used her residence to hide from the media who were aware of his problematic heroin use at the time. She also stated that she is glad that Hacke's life has become stable: "I'm happy he got rid of his problems and has a family now."
On September 10, 2013, German media revealed that Felschernirow will release a new autobiographical book titled Mein Zweites Leben [My Second Life] on October 10, 2013. In Mein Zweites Leben, Felschernirow elaborates on her life following the release of the Christiane F. book. In a promotional interview, prior to the autobiography's release date, Felschernirow revealed her motivation for writing the second book: "No, there's no message [in the book]. It was just that I wanted to make a counterstatement. There was all that junk, all the headlines! I finally wanted to describe what it was really like." However, she counters this statement in a December 2013 interview:
I hope that My Second Life scares people away from taking drugs more than my first book. I'm quite sure it will. It describes how much pain I've had in my life, and [explains] that I will die a very early and painful death.
Felschernirow contracted hepatitis C from an infected needle in the late 1980s. She suffers from cirrhosis of the liver and rejects interferon treatment because of the side effects. In 2013 Felschernirow stated: "I will die soon, I know that. But I haven’t missed out on anything in my life. I am fine with it. So this isn't what I'd recommend: this isn't the best life to live, but it’s my life."
Felscherinow lived in the United States, where she was arrested for heroin and opium possession, and Greece before returning to Germany in 1993. Through adulthood, Felscherinow continued to use illicit drugs and, in 1994, she enrolled in a methadone programme, a course of action she has repeated several times since. She also served a prison sentence for drug-related offences.
She lived with her son (born 1996) in Teltow, Germany, but, in 2008 after they both relocated to Amsterdam, Felscherinow temporarily lost custody of her son in August 2008, after authorities intervened in Berlin. In late January 2011, Felscherinow was searched during a drug raid in Moritzplatz, another Berlin train station known for its drug market; however, the search did not reveal any drugs.
In an October 2013 interview, Felscherinow expressed her frustration with public perceptions of her since the publication of Christiane F.:
What bothers me most of all is this Christiane F. thing. Is she finally clean now, or not? As if there is nothing else to say about me. And I can't get clean. It's just what everyone else has always expected of me. The doctors complain. But I do have a life, after all.
Felscherinow stated in a December 2013 interview that while she continues to consume methadone and occasionally smokes a cannabis "joint", alcohol is her main drug issue at the age of 51 years. In response to a question of why she never discontinued illicit drug use, she explained: "I never wanted to give them up. I didn’t know anything else. I decided to live a different life to other people. I don’t need a pretence to stop."
- "Wunderbar" (1982)
- "Gesundheit!" (12"): Posh Boy (1982)
- "CHRISTIANA - Final Church" (maxi-single, 1982)
- "Wunderbar / Health Dub" (12"): Playhouse (2003)
- "Christiane F. Wir Kinder Vom Bahnhof Zoo RCA 43606 - David Bowie" (1981)
- Max Daly (10 December 2013). "'I WILL DIE SOON; I KNOW THAT': MEETING THE REAL CHRISTIANE F". Vice. Vice Media. Retrieved 26 December 2013.
- "West Germany: Christiane F. Teen-age heroine in Berlin". TIME. 1981-05-04. Retrieved 2013-09-08.
- Katja Thimm (8 October 2013). "'I Can't Get Clean': Christiane F. Publishes New Book on Her Life". Spiegel Online International. SPIEGELnet GmbH. Retrieved 7 November 2013.
- "Christiane F wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo (1982)". The New York Times. 2010. Retrieved 26 December 2013.
- "David Bowie – Original Soundtrack Zum Film "Christiane F. - Wir Kinder Vom Bahnhof Zoo"". Discogs. Discogs. 2013. Retrieved 26 December 2013.
- ""Ich bereue "Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo""". Neue Zürcher Zeitung (in German). 29 November 2013.
- strugatsky (14 February 2010). "Sentimentale Jugend - Wollt ihr die totale befriedigung" (Audio upload). YouTube. Google, Inc. Retrieved 13 July 2013.
- "Sentimentale Jugend". Discogs. 2013. Retrieved 13 July 2013.
- Geeta Dayal (2013). "Sound On Film: Found Soundtracks: Decoder". Sound and Music. Retrieved 13 July 2013.
- Richard Metzger (4 July 2013). "HEROIN CHIC: CHRISTIANE F., TEENAGE JUNKIE, PROSTITUTE, STYLE ICON". Dangerous Minds. Retrieved 13 July 2013.
- "The new life of Christiane F" http://www.bild.de/news/inland/drogen/christiane-f-mein-zweites-leben-autobiografie-32327556.bild.html Bild.de. 2013-10-09. Retrieved 2013-11-09.
- "Junkie-Milieu: Christiane F.: Check bei Drogen-Razzia". B.Z. Berlin. Retrieved 2013-09-08.
- "Bahnhof Zoo Revisited: Famous German Heroin Addict Hooked Again - SPIEGEL ONLINE". Spiegel.de. 2008-08-11. Retrieved 2013-09-08.