Cochem is the seat of and the biggest town in the Cochem-Zell district in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany. With just over 5,000 inhabitants, Cochem falls just behind Kusel, in the Kusel district, as Germany's second smallest district seat. Since 7 June 2009, it has belonged to the Verbandsgemeinde of Cochem.
As early as Celtic and Roman times, Cochem was settled. In 886, it had its first documentary mention as Villa cuchema. Other names yielded by history are Cuhckeme and Chuckeme in 893, Cochemo in 1051, Chuchumo in 1056, Kuchema in 1130, Cuchemo in 1136, Cocheme in 1144, then Cuchme, and into the 18th century Cochheim or Cocheim. Cochem was an Imperial estate. It was pledged by King Adolf of Nassau in 1294 to the Archbishopric of Trier and remained Electoral-Trier territory until the French occupation began in 1794. In 1332, Cochem was granted town rights, and shortly thereafter, the town fortifications, which still stand today, were built. Between 1423 and 1425, the town was stricken with a Plague epidemic. In 1623, Elector Lothar von Metternich brought about the founding of a Capuchin monastery. In the Thirty Years' War, the town was besieged, but not conquered. In 1689, King Louis XIV's troops first burnt the Winneburg (castle) down and then conquered the town of Cochem with its castle. Reconstruction was long and drawn out. Beginning in 1794, Cochem lay under French rule. In 1815, it was assigned to the Kingdom of Prussia at the Congress of Vienna.
Louis Fréderic Jacques Ravené bought the ruin of the former Imperial castle in 1866 and began its reconstruction. Only after a bridge was built across the Moselle at Cochem in 1927 were the two fishing villages of Cond and Sehl amalgamated with the town in the course of administrative reform in 1932. This bridge, called the "Skagerrak Bridge", was dedicated on 23 January 1927. In the Second World War, great parts of Cochem's old town were destroyed. Also during the war, the operations staff of the underground subcamp of Zeisig of the Natzweiler concentration camp between the villages of Bruttig and Treis was located here. At its height, 13,000 people were imprisoned. They provided slave labour for Bosch, which made spark plugs, ignition systems, and glow plugs, which were important to the German war effort, under brutal conditions.
Since 1946, Cochem has been part of the then newly founded state of Rhineland-Palatinate.