The Lansstraße was named after Wilhelm von Lans (1861 – 1947) around 1906. From 1898 to 1901 Lans was commander of the German gunboat “S.M.S Iltis”, which fired on the Taku Forts (today’s transcription: Dagu Forts) of the port city Tianjin in the so-called Boxer Rebellion in China on June 17, 1900. Lans Street, along with Polecat and Taku Streets, commemorates this event.
Wilhelm von Lans (1861 – 1947) attended cadet houses in Bensberg and Berlin from 1870 to 1878. In 1878, Lans joined the Imperial Navy. Initially a lieutenant at sea, Lans became second lieutenant of the liner “S.M.S. Kurfürst Friedrich Wilhelm” in 1894 and was eventually promoted to the Admiral Staff of the Navy in 1895. As a corvette captain of the German gunboat “S.M.S Iltis,” Lans sailed for East Asia on February 6, 1899, reaching Tianjin in May 1899.
With the aim of gradually colonizing China and facilitating the handling of trade, the German Empire had leased ports in China. Since 1897, the port city of Tianjin was the most important naval base of the German Empire. In the following years, Christian proselytizing and attempts to industrialize China increasingly led to conflicts between China and the major European powers (England, France, Russia, Austria, Italy, German Empire) as well as the USA and Japan. In order to defend themselves against the colonial powers, a Chinese secret society called the “Boxer” was formed, which sought the autonomy of China.
In the early summer of 1900, unrest spread from northwestern China to other parts of the country. The international envoy quarter in Beijing was also besieged and shelled. As a result, naval units of the great powers attempted to capture the Taku Forts outright on June 17, 1990. When the German envoy Clemens Freiherr von Kettler (1853 – 1900) was assassinated on June 20, 1900, the colonial powers decided to take joint action against the “Boxers” at the instigation of Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859 – 1941) and requested additional military troops as reinforcements from Europe. After a few weeks the war was decided. The colonial powers were able to conquer the Taku forts, thus controlling the sea and land routes to Beijing and ending the so-called Boxer Rebellion. Since the military clashes were over, the troops of the colonial powers that followed carried out “punitive expeditions” in the interior of the country, during which numerous “Boxers” were executed, civilians killed, and villages looted and burned. Although the “Boxer Protocol” signed on September 7, 1901, secured peace between China and the colonial powers, China’s ability to act was restricted in the long term by the high reparations payments agreed to in the protocol. .
During the bombardment of the Taku Forts, Corvette Captain Wilhelm von Lans was seriously injured. Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859 – 1941) then decorated the corvette captain with the order “Pour la Mérite”. After his return to the German Empire in 1901, Lans took up service as an admiral staff of the Navy in Kiel. On June 16, 1913, Lans was raised to hereditary peerage. However, due to the late effects triggered by the injuries, Lans retired in 1915.
The person of Lans commemorates the so-called Boxer Rebellion and is to be considered in connection with the imperialist expansion of the Great Powers, especially with German colonial policy in China.
Status of the Renaming
In 2011, the district of Steglitz-Zehlendorf installed an information board at the intersection of Iltisstrasse and Lansstrasse, providing information about the historical events of the so-called Boxer Uprising and raising critical questions about the role of the German Empire in relation to it. The Free University of Berlin, which is located there, and parliamentary groups in the district assembly have been demanding the renaming of the streets for decades. The association “Eine Welt Stadt Berlin” also demands the renaming of the streets: “This means that persons of the Chinese resistance against the great powers and against racist and colonial structures should be honored”.