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Maison Centrale in Hanoi, also known as Hoa Lo Prison and the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ housed Vietnamese revolutionaries and American POW during the Vietnam War. The fortress was once a vast colonial-style prison, most of which was torn down in the 1990s.
Visiting today you will find the small southern section resting alongside a hotel and office complex.
The prison is still a popular tourist attraction for those on the war history trail. Official records claim inmates numbered in their hundreds although it was not unknown for up to 2,000 prisoners to be crammed into a space reserved for 600 inmates. Around 200-300 inmates were captured American pilots brought to Maison Centrale for interrogation and torture, it was the American prisoners who sarcastically gave the jail its nickname ‘Hanoi Hilton’.
Hoa Lo Prison today portrays a different side of the horror stories told by former inmates despite the prominently displayed shackles hanging on the walls. Much of the emphasis is on the Vietnamese revolutionaries some of whom were executed at the prison. The American POWs have well documented their own experiences, little of which is available at Maison Centrale today.