Literature as “Shelter to Go” – Semra Ertan

This podcast episode remembers poet and activist Semra Ertan, who publicly self-immolated in 1982 to protest racism. She left behind poems that were not published in Germany until 2020 under the title “Mein Name ist Ausländer”. The conversation with Taudy Pathmanathan and Tamer Düzyol is about self-empowerment in literature in the face of manifold discrimination in the established cultural establishment, about the ‘postmigrant heritage’ and about solidarity and exchange in diverse forms of expression.

About the event

On May 24, 1982, activist, poet and worker Semra Ertan doused herself with gasoline at a busy intersection in Hamburg and set herself on fire in protest of racism. Two days later, she died from her injuries. She left behind over 350 poems in which she made classism, sexism, capitalism, and above all racism her subject matter. Her family had come to Germany from Turkey in the course of the recruitment of so-called guest workers.

Literature, links and background information

Taudy Pathmanathan and Tamer Düzyol: “Kanakistan

Taudy Pathmanathan and Tamer Düzyol: “Haymatlos

Tamer Düzyol: “Araf – Un:::Visible

Semra Ertan: “My Name is Foreigner

Cana Bilir-Meier: Work on Semra Ertan

Sulaiman Masomi: “We have come to write“.

Natasha A. Kelly:“Sisters and Souls – Inspirations by May Ayim”.

Proud Eyes Books: Germany’s first BIPOC publishing company

Literary Miscellaneous

Stefanie-Lahya Aukongo

Cana Bilir-Meier: “Semra Ertan – Her Own Voice, Kendi Sesi, Your Own Voice“.

Audio collage with voices of family, friends and people in solidarity

Initiative in memory of Semra Ertan

Thembi Wolf: “Why 25-year-old Semra set herself on fire in St. Pauli“.

Gürsel Yıldırım: “In the Fire

Leyla Sophie Gleissner: “Writing without a name“.

APUZ: “50 years of recruitment agreement with Turkey“.


Deutschlandradio: Political poetry and self-immolation – Fatma Aydemir in conversation with Timo Grampes

Hamburger Morgenpost Podcast: “#59 The day Semra Ertan took her own life“.

Taz Podcast:“A new book of poems presents Semra Ertan’s resistance poetry“.

Rice and Shine:“Hamburg 1980 – When right-wing terror flared up again“.


Editors: Tanja Thomas, Fabian Virchow and Tobias Fernholz
Co-conceptualization and production: grasshopper kreativ
Hosts: Tanja Thomas and Fabian Virchow
Sound logo: Martin Pfeilsticker and Pia Fruth

The event review was produced by Master’s students from Eberhard Karls University Tübingen and Düsseldorf University of Applied Sciences.

Credits event review

Original sound source: Friedo Karth
Speakers: Pia Fruth and Gamze Özdemir
Students: Pauline Ruhe, Tamina Stephan, Anna Steigerwald, Judith Weidner, Laurentia Bausinger, Marie Zornbach