The St. Louis was a German luxury liner carrying more than 930 Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany to Cuba in May 1939. When the ship set sail from Hamburg on May 13, 1939, all of its refugee passengers bore legitimate landing certificates for Cuba. However, during the two-week period that the ship was en route to Havana, the landing certificates granted by the Cuban director general of immigration in lieu of regular visas, were invalidated by the pro-fascist Cuban government. When the St. Louis reached Havana on May 27 all but 28 of the Jewish refugees were denied entry. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) dispatched Lawrence Berenson to Cuba to negotiate with local officials but Cuban president Federico Laredo Bru insisted that the ship leave Havana harbor. The refugees were likewise refused entry into the United States. Thus on June 6 the ship was forced to return to Europe. While en route to Antwerp several European countries were cajoled into taking in the refugees (287 to Great Britain; 214 to Belgium; 224 to France; 181 to the Netherlands). Only those who were accepted by Great Britain found relative safety. The others were soon to be subject once again to Nazi rule with the German invasion of western Europe in the spring of 1940. A fortunate few succeeded in emigrating before this became impossible. In the end, many of the St. Louis passengers who found temporary refuge in Belgium, France and the Netherlands died at the hands of the Nazis, but the majority survived the war.
Faye Ben-Saull (born Fella Flamberg) is the only daughter of Maier and Brandla Flamberg. She was born on July 7, 1934 in Berlin. Soon after Kristallnacht Fella's father left for Cuba, with the understanding that the rest of the family would follow shortly. Passage on the St. Louis was booked, and Fella and her mother sailed for Cuba on May 13, 1939. When the ship was forced to return to Europe, the Flambergs were given refuge in Brussels. However, less than a year later, on May 10, 1940 Germany invaded Belgium. When the danger of arrest and deportation became imminent, Fella was placed in hiding. She lived in a series of convents, including St Joseph and St. Vincent in Sugny. Brandla survived the war on false papers. After the liberation she learned that Maier was living in the United States and had become a citizen after having served in the American army. The American Red Cross contacted him on her behalf, and in 1946 Brandla and Fella joined him in the United States.