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View from the citadel
View from the citadel
Coat of arms of Bitche
Coat of arms
Bitche is located in France
Coordinates: 49°03′N 7°26′E / 49.05°N 7.43°E / 49.05; 7.43Coordinates: 49°03′N 7°26′E / 49.05°N 7.43°E / 49.05; 7.43
Country France
Region Alsace-Champagne-Ardenne-Lorraine
Department Moselle
Arrondissement Sarreguemines
Canton Bitche
Intercommunality Bitche et environs
 • Mayor (2009–2014) Gérard Humbert
Area1 41.13 km2 (15.88 sq mi)
Population (2009)2 5,415
 • 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.

Bitche (German and Lorraine Franconian : Bitsch) is a commune in the Moselle department in Lorraine in northeastern France.

It is known for its large citadel. The surrounding territory is known as He Pays de Bitche in French and Bitscherland in German.


Bitche is located near the German border on the small river Horn, at the foot of the northern slope of the Vosges between Haguenau and Sarreguemines.[1]


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-Bitsch, whose line became extinct in 1569, when the countship reverted to Lorraine. It passed with that duchy to France in 1766.[1]

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.[1]

In 1815 during Napoleon's Hundred Days, Brigadier-General Creutzer was the commandant.[2] Bitche was besieged by General Zollern's Fourth Infantry Division of the Austrian IV Corps, but Creutzer refused to surrender[3] until the general armistice.

In 1870, during the Franco-Prussian War, though it was closely invested by the Germans after the battle of Wörth, 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.[1] Commander of the fortress of Bitche was Louis-Casimir Teyssier.[citation needed]. After the war, it was given to German Empire as part of Alsace Lorraine. It was given back to France in 1918.

The town is near the Maginot Line, into which the citadel was integrated.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

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.


Historical population
Year Pop. ±%
1793 2,480 —    
1800 2,339 −5.7%
1806 2,621 +12.1%
1821 2,698 +2.9%
1836 3,077 +14.0%
1841 3,033 −1.4%
1861 2,965 −2.2%
1866 2,740 −7.6%
1872 3,047 +11.2%
1876 2,238 −26.6%
1881 2,908 +29.9%
1886 2,850 −2.0%
1891 2,764 −3.0%
1896 2,854 +3.3%
1901 3,640 +27.5%
1906 4,758 +30.7%
1911 2,864 −39.8%
1921 3,151 +10.0%
1926 3,486 +10.6%
1931 5,552 +59.3%
1936 9,342 +68.3%
1946 3,479 −62.8%
1954 4,401 +26.5%
1962 4,277 −2.8%
1968 5,004 +17.0%
1975 5,055 +1.0%
1982 5,648 +11.7%
1990 5,517 −2.3%
1999 5,752 +4.3%
2006 5,607 −2.5%
2009 5,415 −3.4%

International relations[edit]


Bitche has been twinned with Lebach, Saarland, Germany since 1979.

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".[citation needed]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Bitsch". Encyclopædia Britannica 4 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 13. 
  2. ^ Bombelles, p. 319.
  3. ^ Siborne 1895, p. 769.


Further reading[edit]