Hoa Lo Prison is a historical attraction to a plenty of local and foreign visitors. It was built in Hanoi by the French, in dates ranging from 1886–1889 to 1898 to 1901 when Vietnam was still part of French Indochina. The French named the prison as Maison Centrale – a traditional euphemism to denote prisons in France. Hoa Lo prison was near Hanoi’s French Quarter.
Hoa Lo Prison In The Past
It was intended to hold Vietnamese prisoners, especially political ones agitating for independence who were always subject to torture and execution. A 1913 renovation made its capacity from 460 inmates to 600. However, it was often overcrowded, holding some 730 prisoners on a given day in 1916, a figure would rise to 895 in 1922 and 1,430 in 1933. By 1954 it held more than 2000 prisons; with its inmates held in subhuman conditions, the prison had become a symbol of colonialist exploitation and of the bitterness of the Vietnamese towards the French.
History of Hoa Lo Prison
Hoa Lo prison also has the nickname ‘Hanoi Hilton’ which was given by the Americans during the Second Indochina War, this prison was first established by the French colonial government in 1896 to detain political prisoners and it is a part of a northern network of ‘unjust and cruel prisons’ including Son La, Cao Bang, Hai Phong and Lai Chau. A lot of leading revolutionaries were incarcerated here during the French colonial period such as Hoang Trong Mau, Phan Boi Chau, Nguyen Quyen, Luong Van Can, Nguyen Luong Bang and 5 later general secretaries of the Communist Party such as Le Duan, Nguyen Van Cu, Do Muoi, Nguyen Van Linh and Truong Chinh. Between 1964 and 1973 the prison’s inmates included a plenty of captured American pilots such as Douglas ‘Pete’ Peterson and Senator John McCain, America’s first Ambassador to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.