History of Soultzerland

History of Soultzerland

Switzerland of Soult has always been marked by History.

From 1274 onwards, the towns of Soultz, Hermerswiller, Retschwiller, Jâgershoffen (which has disappeared), Memmelshoffen, Meisenthal (now part of Memmelshoffen) and half of Lobsann formed a single parish, that of St Pierre (St Peter) which depended on an important forest, the “Kirchspielwald”. This forest was shared between different municipalities in 1838.

Since the Middle Ages, the parish has been a unique stronghold under the control of the Archbishop of Cologne, the elected prince of the Empire, who invested both the lords of Fleckenstein and the shooters of Hohenbourg.

Soultz was the administrative centre of the seigneury because of its fortified castle. In 1346, the town was elevated to the status of a franchised city. Soultzerland, coveted by the Lichtenbergs and Dolens, has become a centre of different political and lordly conflicts of interest.

The Fleckensteins were to be the winners of this conflict.

By acquiring the 1254 Provost Office, the court and premises of Surbourg, the Fleckensteins also obtained high and low justice for this locality. Hohwiller was to become the direct property of this ministerial family of the Empire, which also had in stronghold Hoffen and Buren (disappeared village), as well as links with Schoenenbourg.

Thus, from 1490 onwards, the Fleckensteins became the sole masters of Soultzerland.

In the following century, Frederick of the Fleckenstein lineage Birlenbach himself built a castle in Hohwiller, but it was abandoned a century later.

The Fleckenstein lineage died out in 1720 and their possessions were passed on to the princes of Rohan. The Soultzerland fiefdom became vacant again with the death of France Charles de Rohan on July 4, 1787 in Paris. In 1788, it was then acquired by Baron Charles Auguste de Bode, former colonel of the regiment in the service of the King of France, Royal Deux Bridges.

Two manor houses were to enrich Soultz’s historical heritage in the 18th century. On the one hand, the castle built in 1750 by the bailiff François-Frédéric-Chris tophe Geiger of Gitellstatt (what remains is the current Catholic presbytery, rue des Ecoles) and on the other hand, the castle of Bode built between 1789 and 1790 (disappeared in 1970 to make way for a supermarket in the city centre).

As far as industrial activity is concerned, Soultz was the centre of the only salt works in Alsace. It was during the Revolution that he experienced his hour of glory, when he reached his peak, under the impetus of the engineer Georges-Chrétien Rosentritt. The activity ceased in 1835 and the salt mine was closed in 1842.

Southern Switzerland was only affected by the second industrial revolution at the end of the 19th century. The extraction of crude oil in Pechelbronn has created jobs and transformed the town of Soultz into a centre for trade and crafts.

Soultzerland has long had a road network running through its territory and was also to be served by rail lines, in particular the Strasbourg-Wissembourg line, completed in 1855, with stations in Soultz and Hoffen. A secondary line between Walbourg and Seltz was opened in 1883, with a station in Surbourg.

With the declaration of war in September 1939 and the evacuation of villages along the Maginot Line, seven villages in Soultzerland were emptied of their inhabitants in a few hours: Hoffen, Leiterswiller, Hermerswiller, Schoenenenbourg, Retschwiller, Memmelshoffen and Keffenach. Soultz was not evacuated, being too far from the border with Germany.

The Liberation was painful. As with most villages in northern Alsace, it was first conducted in mid-December by the Seventh American Army – then the Germans retaliated with the Bastogne offensive in the Ardennes, followed by Operation “Nordwind” (north wind) which would defeat General Patch’s army.

Soultz and Surbourg were subjected to a deadly bombardment on December 30, 1944. The Americans withdrew on January 3. The bloody battle of Hatten-Rittershoffen took place from 8 to 21 January. From a tank fight, it turned into a street fight.

The entire Haguenau region was reoccupied by the Germans.

The Americans relaunched the offensive on March 15 and the final Liberation took place in the days that followed.

Today, the visible traces of this confrontation have disappeared.

Germany has become the privileged partner of the European construction which has brought Alsace half a century of peace….

The Community of Communes of Soultzerland is a recent creation. It was launched on 1 January 2002.