Read Zoo Station: The Story of Christiane F. Online

Authors: Christiane F,Christina Cartwright

Zoo Station: The Story of Christiane F.

BOOK: Zoo Station: The Story of Christiane F.
7.86Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
Zoo Station: The Story of Christiane F.
Christiane F Christina Cartwright
Zest Books (2013)

In 1978 Christiane F. testified against a man who had traded heroin for sex with teenage girls at Berlin’s notorious Zoo Station. In the course of that trial, Christiane F. became connected with two journalists, and over time they helped to turn her story—which begins with a dysfunctional but otherwise fairly normal childhood—into an acclaimed bestseller. Christiane F.’s rapid descent into heroin abuse and prostitution is shocking, but the boredom, the longing for acceptance, the thrilling risks, and even the musical obsessions that fill out the rest of Christiane’s existence will be familiar to every reader. Christiane F.’s Berlin is a strange and often terrifying place, but it’s also a place that remains closer than we might think….


“An eloquent memoir of teen drug abuse from 1970s Berlin retains a contemporary feel in a new translation. . . . Disturbing but compelling.” –
Kirkus Reviews

"A powerful memoir first published 35 years ago in Germany (a U.S. edition and film adaptation soon followed) shows no sign of tarnish in Cartwright’s mesmerizing and urgent new translation. The story of Christiane F., a heroin-addicted teenager living in 1970s Berlin, begins with her family’s move from the country to a fractured and confusing existence in the Berlin projects. Christiane’s bleak circumstances (her father is physically abusive, her mother permissive and absent, her teachers cold and uncaring) lead the 12-year-old to experiment with drugs. She begins with pot and alcohol—rapidly moving on to pills, acid, and finally heroin—finding excitement and intense companionship with a group of David Bowie–worshipping teenagers who populate the city’s underground club scene. Eventually, Christiane resorts to working alongside her boyfriend as a prostitute at the Bahnhof Zoo train station to support her addiction." –
Publishers Weekly

“An amazing story. . . . Her story is so intriguing, and all the more so for being true. Pictures in the middle of the book helped place faces with the names, making it even better. Though definitely not for the younger crowd . . . . high school students . . . will definitely enjoy this memoir.” –
School Library Journal Teen

About the Author

Christiane F. is a former heroin addict famous for her contribution in this autobiographical book, and the film based on the book.

Zoo Station
The Story of Christiane F.
by Christiane F.

© 2013 by Zest Books LLC
First published in 2013 by Zest Books
35 Stillman Street, Suite 121, San Francisco, CA 94107
Created and produced by Zest Books, San Francisco, CA

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or used in any form or by any means—graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or information storage and retrieval systems—without the written permission of the publisher.

Teen Nonfiction / Biography & Autobiography / Social Issues / Drugs, Alcohol, Substance Abuse

Library of Congress Control Number: 2012936083

ISBN: 978-1-936976-22-5

Cover Design: Tanya Napier
Book Design: Keith Snyder
Translation: Christina Cartwright
All photos courtesy of Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag Typeset in Sabon

Manufactured in China
LEO 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Every effort has been made to ensure that the information presented is accurate. The publisher disclaims any liability for injuries, losses, untoward results, or any other damages that may result from the use of the information in this book.

Copyright text and photographs © Stern Verlag 2009 by CARLSEN Verlag GmbH, Hamburg, Germany First published in Germany under the title WIR KINDER VOM BAHNHOF ZOO All rights reserved


This is the haunting, real-life story of Christiane Vera F.—a daughter, a sister, a student, and a typically rebellious teenager in 1970s Berlin. Like so many young people in every age and time, Christiane is eager to fit in and prove herself after her family first moves to the city. She desperately wants to wear the right clothes, listen to the right music, and hang out with the cool kids. More than that, though, she wants to find a way to deal with her abusive, alcoholic father, and learn the ropes at her new school.

Sadly, Berlin was in the midst of a major heroin epidemic when Christiane's family arrived. Nothing was cooler than “H,” and in Christiane's search for acceptance and community she was always bound to encounter heroin at some point. Unfortunately for her, it all happened very fast. By the time she was 14 years old her daily concerns had already degenerated from questions about who she should date and which party she should go to, to what kind of a client she should be willing to tolerate in order to score her next fix.

In telling her story Christiane was originally aided by two journalists (Kai Hermann and Horst Rieck), and they did a wonderful job of letting Christiane simply speak for herself. Whether she's talking about drugs, johns, clothes, David Bowie, or boyfriend troubles, her voice is always loud and clear. She is completely unguarded, and her profound self-consciousness gives us a very clear sense of what she sees when she looks out at the world; meanwhile, a fuller picture of Christiane's life is provided by the simultaneous accounts from Christiane's mother and a number of other adults involved in Christiane's life.

Christiane's story has had a major impact on German culture to this day. Locations such as the Bahnhof Zoo subway station, the housing projects in Gropiusstadt, and even certain public bathrooms have all gained a share of notoriety and
fame. Christiane's book is required reading in much of Germany, and has been translated into many other languages as well. When it was first released in the United States, in 1980 (under the title Christiane F.: Autobiography of a Girl of the Streets and Heroin Addict), it became an instant hit, resonating with teens, parents, and even David Bowie—who provided music for the film adaptation.

Although Christiane's experiences on the streets of Berlin will be quite foreign to most readers, Christiane, as a character, does not wind up feeling distant on that account. In fact, even at the book's conclusion, after so much hardship and misery, Christiane remains in many ways a very typical teenager. We can all find something to relate to in the way that Christiane struggles for acceptance, resists all attempts to rein her in, and fights against herself, uncertainly. The urgency in her voice is timeless. For all these reasons and more, we are proud to be able to bring Christiane's story back to America with Christina Cartwright's excellent new translation.

Even at the darkest times, Christiane manages to maintain a surprising kind of integrity. She always sees with the same eyes and speaks with the same voice. As a result, she has provided us with a stunningly honest and vital account not only of her own teenage years, but also of the powerful forces—both internal and external—that determine the course of our lives. Sometimes they lead us away from ourselves, and sometimes they bring us back home.

Hallie Warshaw

Publisher, Zest Books


In translating this story I've made every effort to preserve Christiane's unique perspective and tone. Christiane has a biting, cynical wit that is still typical of many young Berliners (and which becomes especially prominent in the face of various authority figures), and it is my hope that the updated slang will help to hone the edge that is present in a lot of her commentary. In an effort to give a better sense of Christiane's surroundings, we've added footnotes about many of the locations, and also provided additional information about some especially German expressions and institutions. In all of my translation choices I have worked to maintain not only the tone of Christiane's voice, but also its vitality.

This book has a very strong hold on me personally. As a teenager in the 1970's I spent a lot of time in Berlin, and I remember well what life was like in Berlin as a divided city. I know most of the locations mentioned in the book, and visited them at roughly the same time that Christiane did (although under very different circumstances). As a single parent, I can also sympathize with Christiane's mother's frustration, anxiety, and fear. I have a teenage son myself, and this book made me think more deeply about his daily life, and pay closer attention to his own set of trials. I think I've become a more compassionate listener as a result of the time I've spent with Christiane.

Despite the measures that have been taken against teenage drug use and child prostitution in Germany and in the United States, these are still very real problems. And it goes without saying that, when it comes to peer pressure, alcoholism, depression, and familial strife, today's teenagers have it no easier than the teens of 1970s Berlin. I hope that this book will help teens gain some perspective on their own problems, and encourage them to take a fresh look at the choices that remain open to
them—whatever their situation. I strongly believe that both teens and their parents both stand to gain a lot from reading Christiane's story.

I am honored to have worked on translating this book into current, American English (with the help of my very talented editor, Daniel Harmon). I hope that it does justice to Christiane's voice and personality.

Christina Cartwright


Excerpts from the state's attorney's charge against Christiane Vera F. at the state courthouse of Berlin, dated July 27, 1977.

The student Christiane Vera F. is charged as a legally responsible juvenile with having used regulated narcotic substances continuously after May 20, 1976, without authorization by the Federal Department of Health.
Moreover, the accused has been using heroin since February 1976, injecting herself with approximately one quarter of a gram each time—at first only intermittently, but then later on a daily basis. She has been criminally responsible and accountable since May 20, 1976.

On March 1 and March 13, 1976, the accused was found in the halls of the Zoo and Kurfürstendamm subway stations, and searched for drugs. She had two substances containing heroin on her person, one weighing 18 mg and the other 140.7 mg.

On May 12, 1977, the mother of the accused, Mrs. F., found a heroin-containing substance among her daughter's personal belongings, which she sent to the criminal division of the police. As a result, on that same day, a tinfoil packet containing 62.4 mg of a heroin-containing substance was confirmed to be among
the personal effects of the accused. Heroin-related paraphernalia was also found among her personal effects. Laboratory tests revealed that there were heroin-containing substances adhering to the paraphernalia. Also, analysis of her urine revealed the presence of morphine.

In her defense, the accused stated that she had been using heroin since February 1976. In addition, she had worked as a prostitute since the winter of 1976 to acquire the money she needed in order to purchase the drugs.

It must be assumed that the accused continues to consume heroin today.


1 In the 1970s and 1980s, the German government's policy on drug use was extremely strict. In the years that followed, a number of experimental new policies were put into place, including “harm reduction,” a policy in which drug addicts are given low doses of drugs in a controlled environment. But at this time in Germany all drug users were considered criminals and expected to become drug-free.

BOOK: Zoo Station: The Story of Christiane F.
7.86Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Other books

Seasons of Heaven by Nico Augusto
Black Sparkle Romance by AMARA NICOLE OKOLO
Two Graves by Douglas Preston, Lincoln Child
The Pearly Queen by Mary Jane Staples
Bedding The Baron by Alexandra Ivy
Shiver by CM Foss
A Commonplace Killing by Siân Busby
Jingle Boy by Kieran Scott
Obsidian Mirror by Catherine Fisher