Hoa Lo Prison (Hanoi Hilton)

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The prison was built in the center of Hanoi by the French in the late nineteenth century, when Vietnam was still a part of French colony in Indochina. The name Hoa Lo originated from the street "Hoa Lo" where the prison was located. The name Hoa Lo means “furnace” and referred originally to the sale of wood furnaces that took place on the street.

The French often called the prison Maison Centrale - a common euphemism to denote prisons in France. It was intended to hold Vietnamese prisoners, particularly political prisoners agitating for independence who were often subject to torture and execution. Originally intended to hold around 450 prisoners, by the 1930s the prison was enlarged so that its capacity was up to 2,000 prisoners. Most of prisoners were Vietnamese patriotic politicians such as Nguyen Van Cu, Truong Chinh, Le Duan, Nguyen Van Linh, Do Muoi, Nguyen Luong Bang, etc.

Later the prison was called Hanoi Hilton by the American during the Vietnam War. The named Maison Centrale under the French colony – the original sign still hangs over the entrance. Most of the prison complex was demolished in 1993 in order to make way to the Hanoi Tower building. The rest of the former prison with historical revolution relics was enough to be created the Hoa Lo museum which proved the crime of the French. It also kept many historical documents. The relic area is still relatively intact with many scientifically displayed precious documents and it is also an attractive site for many domestic and foreign tourists traveling to Hanoi. The Post Bulletin Newspaper (U.S.) having an article about tourist attractions in Vietnam emphasized that Hoa Lo Prison cannot be missed while in Asia.

Hoa Lo Prison covering an area of 12.908 square meter is the most solidly monument in Indochina. The prison include following main parts: 1 guardhouse, 1 Ambulance house, 2 houses to detain the accused, 1 workshop, and 5 houses used to imprison prisoners. Hoa Lo Prison is surrounded by stone walls in 4 m height and 0.5 m thickness reinforced by barbed-wire system with high voltage power lines. At the corners are four watch- towers with the ability to observe everything in the prison. Particularly an iron door and lock system was brought from France. The main gate has been associated with two-floor buildings based on an arch structure. The detention area has double iron gates. The way linked two detention houses are equipped a lot of iron doors, so prisoners can hardly escape.

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