Ms Felscherinow, at the age of 14 you were addicted to heroin and prostituted yourself at Berlin Zoo Station. Today you are taking part in a methadone programme and are the mother of a son. How do you feel?
Bad. I’m terminally ill, if you will. At the end of the 1980s I infected myself with hepatitis C through an infected needle and now have cirrhosis of the liver. But I don’t have it treated because the interferon treatment is even worse. I observed this in a relative. She had the worst depression, hair loss, weight loss, just vomited. Nah, I prefer to die earlier.
Christiane Felscherinow wants to get away from her old image. (Image: Marcel Mettelsiefen / EPA)
In your autobiography “My second life” you write about your life after the Bahnhof Zoo: started bookseller apprenticeship in Schleswig-Holstein, WG-Leben in Hamburg, Liebesglück in Greece, imprisonment in a women’s prison and finally Berlin, where you relapsed and the youth welfare department handed over your son to a foster family. How did your drug history shape your later life?
It’s important for me to say that I relapsed because my son was taken from me. Custody was taken away from me because I wanted to emigrate to Amsterdam with him. At that time, I had been clean or slightly substituted for 12 years. But I wanted to leave “Christiane F.” behind me and therefore leave Germany. When my son was taken away from me, I didn’t want to live anymore, so I relapsed. But when I got the chance to get custody back, I took it. After the incident I was back in the methadone program and otherwise clean.
Natja Brunckhorst as Christiane F. 1981 in the film “Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo”. (Picture: Imago)
How did it go for you with the sudden celebrities, which you attained by “Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo”?
I regret writing that book today. From then on I was always “Germany’s most famous junkie” for everyone, few were interested in what else I was except clean or not clean. I was 16 then and had no idea what that would mean.
One chapter of your book also deals with the period between 1982 and 1985, when you lived in Zurich with the Keel family, who ran the Diogenes publishing house. About Daniel and Anna Keel you write that they were both like substitute parents. What did they tell you about what you missed at home?
Acceptance, belief in my abilities, indulgence with my mistakes, love. Anna and Daniel Keel were just good to me. They and the boys remain the most important people in my life.
Through the Keels you also got to know Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Patricia Highsmith and Patrick Süskind. Did you feel strange?
I don’t rate it that way: them and me. For me they are all people, no matter what they do. Some of the authors I liked, some not. But that has nothing to do with their job. Especially Loriot was like a grandfather to me. We laughed and talked a lot together. Patrick Süskind is a very dear one, he was at that time still an aspiring author and daddy of a little boy, but inconspicuous, quiet, pleasant.
In the 1980s and 1990s, the Zurich Platzspitz and later the Latvian were an open drug scene. You, too, relapsed during your time in Zurich. How did you experience the Zurich drug scene?
Back then, it was a paradise for me. A Walt Disney country for addicts, if you will. Even I didn’t know that much freedom. The Bahnhof Zoo is a small hole against it. There it went openly to and fro. Like at a weekly market, the drugs lay around visibly – you traded, traded, consumed. I think the Swiss deal better with their addicts than the Germans. There is more acceptance and help for self-help.
Do you still have contact with friends from the drug scene at that time?
No. Not to anyone anymore.
When you look back today on your childhood and youth in Berlin: What were you looking for in the drug scene?
I wish I knew! I don’t know what caused this restlessness in me. But I know that I wanted to prove myself. Today I think it’s stupid, but then it was important to me to prove to the others that I was as much a junkie as she was. Funny, isn’t it?
How do people react to you today when they learn that you are the famous Christiane F. of Bahnhof Zoo?
The other day I was sitting on a bench in a park talking to my son on the phone. There came a young couple, sat down and listened to me. When I hung up, the young man asked: “You are Christiane, aren’t you? I said “Yes” and had a short talk with them. I always do that when someone recognizes me, I know that people want to talk and I respond to that. I don’t want to be rude. But then I had to go further and when I left, they shouted after me: “Have fun using drugs! Well, I didn’t say anything, I’ve moved on, but I often have to think about it. It’s not nice when people put you in a drawer even though they don’t know anything about you.
What do you want for your future?
Quiet! I dream of a house in the country. Maybe I’ll buy some farm animals. That and nature, that’s enough for me. I want to get away from “noisy” Berlin and away from Christiane F.
Christiane V. Felscherinow and Sonja Vukovic: Christiane F. My second life. German Levante Publishing House. 333 p., 22.90 Fr.