• Hoa Lo Prison, a "Hanoi Hilton"
  • Hoa Lo Prison, a "Hanoi Hilton"

  • on May 12, 2019       By: Hoàng
  • Hisucture a prison in the center of Hanoi city. This place is named after the street of Hanoi from before the French colonial period. And this was a place to prison many of great Vietnam revolutionaries.

    Located on Hoa Lo street, Hanoi -- >> View map
    with its central location, visitors can walk or take a taxi from hotels to visit Hoa Lo prison easily.

    hoa lo prison or maison centrale
    Hoa Lo prison or Maison Centrale in the past

    This prison was built by the French colonialists in 1896 in the area that was the suburban at that time as the central prison of both center and north of Vietnam (Tonkin). This place prisoned many people including political prisoners, patriots against the French colonial government. The French name of this prison at that time was Maison Centrale and in Vietnamese meant Hanoi prison.

    After 1954, Hoa Lo was the prison of Vietnam democratic Republic regime. During the Dien Bien Phu aerial operation (operation Linebacker II) of Vietnam war. This was the place where American paratroopers were prisoned till  the Paris Agreement in 1973. American prisons satirically called Hoa Lo prison “Hanoi Hilton”. Among the American war prisoners, the most famous was American senator John McCain. Moreover, Hoa Lo prison was also the place to hold those believed to be the spy of the South regime. Also, the place to hold those believed to involve in anti-party after 1954 in the north of Vietnam.

    Nowadays, Hoa Lo has only small corner left for visitors to come and visit. The remaining area is for commercial building named tower of Hanoi.  The detention center is now moved to the area of Xuan Phuong, Cau Dien, Nam Tu Liem district, named the number 1 Detention Center of Hanoi police.

    The Hoa Lo Prison was constructed with a structure consisting of 4 m high stone walls, 0.5m thick and reinforced with electric steel wire.
    With a total area about 12 000 m2, it was one of the largest and the most solid prison in Indochina at that time.

    The process of building Hoa Lo prison was strictly checked the quality by the colonial government. From door locks, hinges were imported from France with the best quality.
    The Engineers checked the foundation of the prison, type of bricks to be built and the size of mortar connected with bricks were not exceeded 0.007m.

    locks in hoa lo prison
    Locks in Hoa Lo prison

    The Hoa Lo prison was divided into 4 zones:
    Zone A and B were for prisoners who were being considered, important offenders or violated prison discipline.
    Zone C was the place to prison the French or foreigner prisoners
    Zone D was the place to keep the death sentence prisoners waiting for the execution approval.

    In prison, there were small cells with the area only 1.8x1.8m with the panels used as a sleeping area.

    The windows were always closed and the prison was always full of prisoners.
    In 1916, the capacity was only 600 prisoners, somedays up to 730 prisoners.  By 1933, the number of prisoners was increased from 1430 to more than 2000 in 1954.
    Known as “the hell on earth”, the most feared prison in Southeast Asia. This area became the confining place for generations of Vietnamese soldiers and revolutionaries. They were tortured and forced extremely cruel. One must include a guillotine. It had brought Hoa Lo prison into the top 10 most notorious  prisons in the world.

    Guillotine in Hoa Lo prison
    The guillotine in Hoa Lo prison

    Visiting hours and entrance fee:
    The Hoa Lo Prison is opened from 8.00 to 5.50 on weekdays and closed for much break.
    The admission fee is 30 000 VND (=1.5 dollars)



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