View from the citadel
|Intercommunality||Bitche et environs|
|• Mayor (2009–2014)||Gérard Humbert|
|• Land1||41.13 km2 (15.88 sq mi)|
|• Population2 density||130/km2 (340/sq mi)|
|INSEE/Postal code||57089 / 57230|
|Elevation||249–432 m (817–1,417 ft)
(avg. 290 m or 950 ft)
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.2 Population without double counting: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.
The town of Bitche, which was formed of the villages of Rohr and Kaltenhausen in the 17th century, derives its name from the old stronghold (mentioned in 1172 as Bytis Castrum) standing on a rock some 250 feet (76 m) above the town. This had long given its name to the countship of Bitsch, which was originally in the possession of the dukes of Lorraine. In 1297 it passed by marriage to Eberhard I of Zweibrücken, whose line became extinct in 1569, when the countship reverted to Lorraine. It passed with that duchy to France in 1766.
After that date the town rapidly increased in population. The citadel, which had been constructed by Vauban on the site of the old castle after the capture of Bitche by the French in 1624, had been destroyed when it was restored to Lorraine in 1698. This was restored and strengthened in 1740 into a fortress that proved impregnable up until the 20th century. The attack upon it by the Prussians in 1793 was repulsed.
In 1815 during Napoleon's Hundred Days, Brigadier-General Creutzer was the commandant. Bitche was besieged by General Zollern's Fourth Infantry Division of the Austrian IV Corps, but Creutzer refused to surrender until the general armistice.
In 1870, during the Franco-Prussian War, though it was closely invested by the Germans after the battle of Worth, it held out until the end of the war. A large part of the fortification is excavated in the red sandstone rock, and was rendered bomb-proof; a supply of water was secured to the garrison by a deep well in the interior. Commander of the fortress of Bitche was Louis-Casimir Teyssier.
The town is near the Maginot Line, into which the citadel was integrated. Bitche was liberated in December 1944 by allied troops but was relinquished in the withdrawal forced by the German counteroffensive. In March 1945 the U.S. 100th Infantry Division broke through the Maginot Line in the Bitche area and liberated the town, which had been occupied by German troops. The attack was a part of Operation Undertone.
After 1945, Bitche became one of the busiest military camp where all parts of the French army manoeuvered. Infantry and cavalry also went to Bitche for experimenting new weapons at the time of the cold war. Bitche also was the place where special training took place against potential bacteriological attacks from the "EAST" side. Military service was an obligation in France. This is why millions of young soldiers had a few days of training in Bitche and make the city well known for two generations.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (January 2012)|
The town of Bitche was mentioned in BBC comedy panel game QI, in episode 9 of season 3 (or series "C", as the show refers to the series by letters of the alphabet). Bill Bailey commented on the comical nature of seeing a sign "You are now leaving Bitche".
- Bombelles, Marc, marquis de; Grassion, Jean; Durif, Frans; Charon-Bordas, Jeannine (2008), Marquis de Bombelles Journal Tome VII 1808-15, France: Librairie Droz, p. 319
- Siborne, William (1895), "Supplement section", The Waterloo Campaign 1815 (4th ed.), Birmingham, 34 Wheeleys Road, pp. 767–780
- INSEE statistics, retrieved January 2012
- Bitche website, retrieved January 2012
- Bitche (in French), retrieved January 2012
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bitche.|