1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Bitsch
BITSCH (Fr. Bitche), a town of Germany, in Alsace-Lorraine, on the Horn, at the foot of the northern slope of the Vosges between Hagenau and Saargemund. Pop. (1905) 4000. There are a Roman Catholic and a Protestant church, a classical school and an academy of forestry. The industries include shoe-making and watch-making, and there is some trade in grain and timber. The town of Bitsch, which was formed out 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 ft. 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 Bitsch 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 in all succeeding wars. The attack upon it by the Prussians in 1793 was repulsed; in 1815 they had to be content with blockading it; and in 1870, 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 rendered bomb-proof; a supply of water is secured to the garrison by a deep well in the interior.