Marcus Kranz escaped Hitler’s gas chambers by working in a labor camp in Romania while the rest of his family (his sister and parents) perished.
But in a cruel irony, he and five others in his son’s Long Island home succumbed to another kind of gas, carbon monoxide.
Police said the central air conditioner in the Roslyn Heights home of Kranz’s son, Andrei, apparently circulated the deadly fumes from an improperly vented furnace that had been left on.
Andrei Kranz, a doctor on the night shift at the Nassau County Medical Center in East Meadow, made the tragic discovery Sunday morning upon returning to his home on Parkway Drive.
Found dead were Marcus Kranz, 86; his wife, Victoria, 74; Andrei Kranz’s only child, Simina, 2; a baby-sitter, Emelia Dumtru, 58; and two houseguests visiting from Romania, Emil Campeanu, 75, and his wife, Maria, 68. All were found in their beds except Dumtru.
Andrei Kranz was taken to the Nassau County Medical Center and treated for carbon monoxide exposure.
A family friend, Jack Abeshouse of Jericho, said Andrei Kranz’s wife, Anca, a radiologist, and her 17-year-old daughter from an earlier marriage were in Romania last weekend to complete immigration matters. They flew home Monday night.
Abeshouse said he and the elder Kranz became friends while working in Long Island City for a flavor and fragrance development company. "He was a quality control chemist," Abeshouse recalled.Before the war, Marcus Kranz worked in his family’s alcohol distillery business in the northern Romanian town of Iradia. During the Holocaust, the Romanian Iron Guard "worked him harshly" in a slave labor camp, Abeshouse said, from which he emerged emaciated.
"At the time of his death, he was only 115 or 120 pounds," said Abeshouse. "And he was quite ill. I don’t think he ever really recovered [from his labor camp experience]."
Kranz, Abeshouse said, was "the most self-effacing, perfect gentleman you could ever find. He was a prince of a person."
After the Holocaust, Marcus Kranz returned to the family distillery to get it operational, but the Russians forced him out. The Kranzes married in Romania and had Andrei.
The family left Romania in the mid-1950s for France, and stayed there until coming to the United States in 1960. They moved to Roslyn Heights from Queens about 20 years ago.
Abeshouse called Victoria Kranz, a biochemist who was a researcher at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, "one of the brightest ladies and very talented."
"She did carpentry, made dresses, knitted, did gardening and was a marvelous cook. There was no limit to her talents," he said. "She really was extraordinary."
Andrei Kranz married about four years ago and moved into a home less than a mile from his parents. Abeshouse said Andrei attended the Bronx High School of Science and earned his undergraduate degree from the State University at Stony Brook.
"He then studied in Romania for his medical degree and came back to the state and got qualified to practice here," Abeshouse recalled.
Abeshouse said the elder Kranz "identified with Judaism very much."
"When I did an occasional haftarah in my synagogue, the Old Westbury Hebrew Congregation, I would invite them and they readily came," Abeshouse said.
Andrei Kranz and his wife had their daughter enrolled in a toddler group at Temple Beth Sholom in Roslyn.
"They were really extraordinary people," Abeshouse said. "We’ll miss them."
Nassau Police Det. Sgt. Bob Edwards said an inspection of the Kranz house found that the water heater, furnace and circulator for the air conditioner were all in one small room whose door was closed.
"The vent to the outside was closed and the air conditioner circulator was sucking air out of the room," he said. "And because there was no open vent, it was pulling carbon dioxide down the flu of the burner and sending it throughout the house. The furnace was set for 74 degrees and the air conditioner was set at 70. If the heat had not been on, there would have been no problem. But this was a deadly combination."
A carbon dioxide detector on the wall across from the furnace room was found disconnected. Edwards said Andrei Kranz had told another officer that he disconnected the unit because it constantly went off.
"He had contacted the company [that makes the detector] several times because he believed there was a problem with the alarm, but he never contacted KeySpan," said Edwards, referring to the local power authority. "There were also two natural gas detectors in the home and those were also unplugged."
Edwards said he did not know why those were disconnected or if they would have detected the carbon monoxide, which robs red blood cells of oxygen.
"Death comes very quickly, depending on the concentration [of the gas]," said Edwards.
He added that it is not illegal to disconnect gas detectors.
"We don’t think this was a criminal act," he stressed. "It’s a terrible mistake that became a terrible tragedy."