Photo: The entrance to the former Hanoi Hilton.

Hoa Lo Prison (Hanoi Hilton)

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Originally sprawling over 13 hectares, Hoa Lo Prison, better known as the Hanoi Hilton to Westerners in one of its later iterations, was one of the largest prisons built by the French in Indochina.

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Opened in 1896 on the site of razed ceramics village Phu Khanh, the French simply called it Maison Centrale; Hanoi has grown around it to such an extent that it is now located near the town centre.

Artefacts on display include ceramics produced at the village the French destroyed to build Hoa Lo. Photo taken in or around Hoa Lo Prison (Hanoi Hilton), Hanoi, Vietnam by Samantha Brown.

Artefacts on display include ceramics produced at the village the French destroyed to build Hoa Lo. Photo: Samantha Brown

The prison's original purpose was to function as the end of the assembly line for the colonial system of jurisprudence, detaining Vietnamese criminals who were more often than not anti-colonial revolutionaries (otherwise known to the Vietnamese as 'revered heroes and martyrs'). It was the inmates who dubbed it Hoa Lo, which means 'fiery furnace'. Cell D, for instance, from 1930 to 1945, held up to 100 political prisoners in an area ... Travelfish members only (Full text is around 600 words.)


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