Christiane F. (born Vera Christiane Felscherinow on 20 May 1962) is an actress and musician who is best-known for her contribution to the 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 consisting mainly of high-rise concrete apartment blocks where social problems were prevalent. Felscherinow's father had a violent temper and frequently drank heavily and raged at his family, and her parents eventually divorced.
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 sex worker, 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).
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In 1981 the book was made into a film that was directed by Uli Edel, and produced by Bernd Eichinger and Hans Weth. Its title in Germany was Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo, and in English-speaking countries Christiane F. The screenplay was written by Herman Weigel. Felscherinow worked as an advisor for the film, but did not appear in it herself. Much of the movie is shot in the authentically gloomy 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 also released in 1981.
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 snd Patrick Süskind.
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.
An animal-lover since early childhood, Felscherinow is a keen equestrian. As of 2013, Felscherinow receives fan mail and is occasionally contacted by the German media in regard to the progression of her life since the release of the Christiane F film.
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." As of October 2013, Felschernirow continues to receive monthly royalty payments of €2,000 (US$2,720) for the book Christiane F.
Felscherinow lived in the United States 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.
Felscherinow stated in an October 2013 interview that she continues to use illicit drugs at the age of 51 years. Felscherinow admitted to using cannabis, methadone, and heroin in the interview, and also 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.
- "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)
- "West Germany: Christiane F. Teen-age heroine in Berlin". TIME. 1981-05-04. Retrieved 2013-09-08.
- "«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. Discogs. 2013. Retrieved 13 July 2013.
- Geeta Dayal (2013). "Sound On Film: Found Soundtracks: Decoder". Sound and Music. SAM. Retrieved 13 July 2013.
- Richard Metzger (4 July 2013). "HEROIN CHIC: CHRISTIANE F., TEENAGE JUNKIE, PROSTITUTE, STYLE ICON". Dangerous Minds. Dangerous Minds. Retrieved 13 July 2013.
- [dead link]
- "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.
- 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.
- "Junkie-Milieu: Christiane F.: Check bei Drogen-Razzia - B.Z. Berlin". Bz-berlin.de. Retrieved 2013-09-08.
- "Bahnhof Zoo Revisited: Famous German Heroin Addict Hooked Again - SPIEGEL ONLINE". Spiegel.de. 2008-08-11. Retrieved 2013-09-08.