We have analyzed the topological organization of chromatin inside mitotic chromosomes. We show that mitotic chromatin is heavily self-entangled through experiments in which topoisomerase (topo) II is observed to reduce mitotic chromosome elastic stiffness. Single chromosomes were relaxed by 35% by exogenously added topo II in a manner that depends on hydrolysable adenosine triphosphate (ATP), whereas an inactive topo II cleavage mutant did not change chromosome stiffness. Moreover, experiments using type I topos produced much smaller relaxation effects than topo II, indicating that chromosome relaxation by topo II is caused by decatenation and/or unknotting of double-stranded DNA. In further experiments in which chromosomes are first exposed to protease to partially release protein constraints on chromatin, ATP alone relaxes mitotic chromosomes. The topo II-specific inhibitor ICRF-187 blocks this effect, indicating that it is caused by endogenous topo II bound to the chromosome. Our experiments show that DNA entanglements act in concert with protein-mediated compaction to fold chromatin into mitotic chromosomes.