The Iltisstraße was named in 1906 and bears the name of the German gunboat “S.M.S Iltis” of the Imperial Navy. The ship was in action during the so-called Boxer Rebellion in China and bombed the Taku Forts (today’s transcription: Dagu Forts) of the port city of Tianjin on June 17, 1900. Polecat Street, along with Lans and Taku Streets, commemorates this event.
The “S.M.S Iltis” was completed in Gdansk on August 4, 1897, as one of six German gunboats. The ship entered service on December 1, 1898, and 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 other major European powers (England, France, Russia, Austria, Italy, Germany) as well as the United States and Japan. In order to defend themselves against the colonial powers, the Chinese secret society by the name of “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 -1 900) 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 be sent 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 were killed, and villages were 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 cost of agreed upon.
In addition to Corvette Captain Wilhelm von Lans (1861 – 1947), the “S.M.S. Ilitis” was also awarded the Order “Pour la Mérite” by Kaiser Wilhelm II. (1859 – 1941). The gunboat remained in service until the beginning of the First World War. On September 28, 1914, the “S.M.S. Iltis” was sunk by the shipyard personnel in Tianjin.
The boat “S.M.S Iltis” 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, which provides information about the historical events of the so-called Boxer Uprising and critically questions 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” (Berlin: City of the World) 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”.