Vietnamese Women's Museum in Hanoi 2
Vietnamese Women’s Museum in Hanoi
January 14, 2017
May 7, 2017





One of the symbol of the French colonists exploitation that still exists and preserves is Hoa Lo prison. Along its long history, It is called as several other names such as Maison centrale, Hanoi Hilton hotel and Hoa Lo prison. No matter what its name is, the prison is the most justified evidence that demonstrates the brutality of the French colonial government toward Vietnamese people. Initially, the French built it with a point of capturing and torturing Vietnamese revolutionaries patriots who were willing to fight against the French colonialism. After 1954 when the French enemy lose in Vietnam war, the prison became the primary camp to keep American pilots in jail who had been shot down in the war.




Hoa Lo prison was constructed in 1896 by the French. It used to belong to  Phu Khach village that specialized in producing pottery stoves. The French forced the residents to leave in order to build Maison central. At that time, Hoa Lo prison was the biggest prison in Indochina but it was not the cruelest one since there was a Guillotine that was sent from France. It was the Guillotine that relieved the paint for prisoners because it made prisoners dead fast instead of suffering cruel severe torture. It originally tended to capture 500 inmates, but in fact, the prison kept at the peak of over 2000 prisoners in jail.


When it comes to its architecture, the prison was designed to become one of the harshest prisons with solid stone walls being 0,5 metre thick and 4 meter high. Moreover, it was reinforced by the barbed wires fence with high voltage electricity and covered by broken glass on the top of the walls so that no one could break out. In the premises of the prison, there were watch towers to monitor and observe every moment here. The outer of the prison was guarded seriously while the inside was designed to bring the sense of fear to prisoners. Dirty, damp, tiny cells were painted in grey and black that made people suffocating. The fear invaded their mind, as a result, they would die gradually without under the hands of the French colonists. It is noteworthy to mention that both facilities and tortured tools were brought from France so their quality was extremely good and reliable.





hỏa-lò-guillotine- hỏa lò prison

hoa-lo-guillotine- hoa -lo- prison


The French government brought in such severe laws. Revolutionary soldiers did not have human right, they were treated badly as wild animals or livestock. The French guards gave them leftover, stale food contained in pig troughs that Vietnamese farmers often fed their livestock. Moreover, Vietnamese political prisoners were tortured by wearing stock in their neck and chaining their foot to cells. They had to endure the harshest conditions, including stale food and unsanitary conditions. They used the savage instrument of torture and racked under various forms such as sliding their head into tub to strike, using electric wire to beat and using head-cut machine. it was the most terrible thing making inmates scared even dead before sentencing.

Despite suffering the paint physically and mentally, the prisoners still did not overpower and dampen their patriotism and determination for releasing our nation from colonization. Instead of surrendering, they made the prison become a revolutionary school. They taught languages and transferred books talking about political ideology so as to nurture their fight willpower against the French colonialism.

prisoners in Hoa Lo

prisoners in Hoa Lo

      The most memorable events were twice escaped from the jail. The first one took place in 6/3/1945 lead by Ho Chi Minh. Thanks to his perfect plan, 100 prisoners including Do Muoi, Tran Dang Ninh,… escaped successfully by going through the sewer. No sooner had they come back their local than they took charge of leading the August revolution to take the authority and made significant contribution to the national independence and liberating our nation from the French colonialism. The second one was in 24/12/1951, taking advantage of the neglected vigilance of the prison guards when they were enjoying Christmas, 16 prisoners planned to escape. Unfortunately, owing to unwanted change, everything did not go according to the plan, consequently, there were 5 out of 16 prisoners breaking out successfully.   Others were arrested and had to end up with death penalty. In spite of anticipating a wide range of difficulties and obstacles, they were willing to sacrifice because of the freedom and independence.

      After the war defending against the French enemy won completely, the prison was utilized to capture American pilots who had been shot down. If the French made use of the prison as a place to torture brutally revolutionary people, Vietnamese government, by contrast, treated American pilots clemently as if they had been enjoying an extended holiday in Hilton hotel. There are numerous exhibits such as clothes, beds, dairies that they wrote and did when they were imprisoned in the prison. They could access medical care, practice exercise on a daily basis and even write letters to their beloved people. Besides, they were given chance to talk with reporters and humanitarian agencies. It is quite confused to understand the humanitarian laws that Vietnamese government adapted to American inmates. Nevertheless, it was the purpose of the government to express that Vietnamese people always respect the peace and human right, instead of being rivals, all countries around the world should be friends to support each other to develop non-stop.

Hoa Lo prison nowadays occupies one-fifth area of the prison in the past because of building other construction serving the need of society. The prison attracts millions of both local and international tourists every year, especially in some special holidays, it is pleasant to welcome former prisoners to share unforgettable events about the war. the prison helps to remind young generations about the sacrifice and ceaseless effort of patriots and brave soldiers to gain independence that we are enjoying today.


monumental place in Hoa Lo prison

monumental place in Hoa Lo

How do you think about the relic?

Hanoi is long war history with  sacrifice and ceaseless effort of patriots who  were willing to sacrifice because of the freedom and independence. Moreover, Hanoi has others hightlight history places such as Long Bien bridge, Vietnamese Women’s Museum and Military History Museum.

Also, if you find useful information in this article, would you mind encouraging me with a book tour button. Thank you.


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