The manufacturers of the luxury chocolate line Haigh’s would like to be very clear on the fact that they have no connection to Ms. Della Haigh. Indeed, were you to ask them about her, they’d likely deny knowing anything at all of her. This may have something to do with Ms. Haigh’s profession (brothel keeper), or with her chief pastime (lover of a former Nazi war criminal in hiding), although, of course, the Haigh’s company will preserve a reasonably dignified silence on the matter.

Della (born Adele) Haigh was a German immigrant who fled Europe in the company of her Jewish husband shortly before the outbreak of World War Two on the HMS Dunera, and was later interned at Hay with many another refugee. In 1942, Haigh’s husband died in a knife fight with another internee, apparently due to a dispute arising from the alleged adultery of Haigh. Haigh apparently escaped from the Hay facility shortly thereafter, and made her way to Melbourne, where she posed as the widow of an American soldier.

Haigh had a keen head for business, but also for politics: she believed that once the Americans landed in Europe, World War Two would inevitably end in defeat for Germany. Thus her efforts to establish herself had a second, more secretive purpose: she was preparing false identity documents and other such materials for the planned escape of her true lover, a lieutenant of Mengele’s named Dr. Heinrich Lantz. A woman of little means but strong will, she led a group of working girls in Melbourne’s western suburbs to overthrow their pimps and eventually found their own brothel in 1944. At that point, Haigh retired from prostitution herself, and ran the brothel instead.

She made a handy profit, becoming well-known as a sort of shadow celebrity in her area, where her brothel lay on a tract of farmland she had bought for a song from a bedazzled customer. But all her planning and hard work went somewhat to waste, at least to begin with. In 1946, Lantz attempted to enter Australia but was recognised and detained. His escape from custody in 1952 was more successful, and Haigh’s planning paid off – Lantz was never recaptured. Della’s farm was eventually subdivided and converted to a residential suburb, but the name of her property remains.

Suburbs near Bellfield:

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