|région: Grand Est|
|département: 57, Moselle|
Bitche is situated at an elevation of 286 m in the northeast of the département Moselle of the région Grand Est. It is part of the arrondissement Sarreguemines and is the chef-lieu of the canton Bitche. The municipality has a population of about 5,500 (2008). Bitche is the centre of the Pays de Bitche.
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 as early as 1172 as Bytis or Bithis) standing on a rock some 80 m above the town. This had long given its name to the county of Bitsch, which was originally in the possession of the dukes of Lorraine. The county of Zweibrücken, which had been partitioned in 1286 (at first beind administered jointly, but finally partitioned in 1333), obtained Bitsch from Lorraine in 1297/1302 by an exchange with the domains of Morsberg (Marimont-lès-Bénestroff), Linder (Lindre-Haute) and Saargemünd (Sarreguemines). Bitsch thus became the capital of the territory of the line Zweibrücken-Bitsch. When the last count of Zweibrücken-Bitsch died without male heir in 1570, Bitsch was inherited by the counts of Hanau-Lichtenberg (against claims from the counts of Leiningen-Westerburg). When the count of Hanau-Lichtenberg introduced the Lutheran faith in his new territory, the Catholic duchy of Lorraine, which owned the suzerainty over Bitsch, became an important enemy. In 1572, Bitsch was occupied by Lorraine. In the ensuing lawsuit before the Reichskammergericht (Imperial Court Chamber), Lorraine could support its claims by referring to the barter agreement of 1302 and also by the fact that Lorraine in 1573 had purchased the hereditary titles of Leiningen-Westerburg. A contract of 1604 finally awarded the domains of Bitsch to Lorraine, while the domains of Lemberg (Pfalz) were awarded to Hanau-Lichtenberg. Bitsch accordingly reverted to the Catholic faith again. After the death in 1766 of Duke Stanisław Leszczyński of Lorraine, Bitche became part of France. However, between 1870 and 1945 the territory changed its national affiliation a total of six times due to three wars. In the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/1871, Bitche was besieged by Bavarian troops, but only capitulated one month after the Treaty of Versailles. Until the end of World War I, Bitsch became part of Germany again. Occupied again by Germany during World War II, Bitche finaly reverted to France in 1945.
The fortress of Bitche [background] was first mentioned in a document of 1170 as Bitis Castrum, 1172 as castrum Bytis. By the 17th century, the old stronghold had been reduced to ruins. After the Treaties of Nijmegen (1678/1679), marshal Vauban was instructed to rebuild the fortress for France. The construction works lasted from 1683 until 1697 and costed 2,500,000 Livre d'or, an incredible amont of money at the time. However, after the Treaty of Rijswijk, which ended the Nine Years' War (War of the Palatinate Succession, 1688–1797), the fortress had to be torn down again, and Bitche became part of Lorraine. However, as the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1704) broke out, French troops again occupied the garrison and started to rebuild the fortress. Between 1738 and 1765, a new fortress, which followed Vauban's ground plan and still dominates the town today, was built by Louis de Cormontaigne. During the Franco-Prussion War of 1870/1871, the fortress was besieged for 230 days and parts of it were destroyed during this siege. The German military administration modernised the fortress after the war and it became a German garrison. After 1930 it also became part of the fortresses that were included in the Maginot Line. In 1979 the fortress was listed as a Monument historique.