By James R. Hagerty
As a boy, Claude Ganz wondered where, if anywhere, he belonged.
Born into a Jewish family in Germany in 1931, he escaped the Nazi
regime with his immediate family and settled near Paris in the
mid-1930s. When Nazi troops occupied Paris in 1940, the Ganz family
retreated south and later were herded into a concentration camp at
Gurs in southwestern France.
There, boys from Eastern Europe beat him up because he didn't
speak Yiddish. "Just imagine the confusion in the mind of a
12-year-old trying to come to grips with a world that is looking
the other way while the Nazis want to kill him because he is a Jew,
the French hate him because he is a Jew from Germany, and he is
disliked by his peers because he is not the right brand of Jew," he
wrote in an unpublished memoir.
He eventually implanted himself firmly in California and was
chief executive of Dymo Industries Inc., a maker of label-making
devices, in the 1970s. In 1997, the Clinton administration sent him
to Bosnia for 18 months as an adviser on economic
Mr. Ganz and his family returned to live in Glen Ellen, in
California's Sonoma County. He died Jan. 24 of natural causes
unrelated to Covid-19. He was 89.
Claude Louis Ganz, an only child, was born Aug. 5, 1931, in
Frankfurt. His father's family was from the Alsace-Lorraine region
and his mother's family from Central Europe. "They embraced German
culture and assimilated," Mr. Ganz wrote. His father was a lawyer
and played the violin. His mother was a pianist. They hosted weekly
string quartets at home.
With his parents and maternal grandparents, he fled the Paris
area to escape Nazi persecution. Most of his other relatives stayed
behind, and more than 80 of them died in the Holocaust, he
The Nazi occupation of Paris in 1940 sent the family fleeing
southward. They rented a home in Brive-la-Gaillarde. Mr. Ganz
recalled hiding in a chicken coop there, but the family was
discovered and sent to the Gurs prison camp, where they risked
deportation to a death camp in Germany. "My father arranged to
smuggle in and sell his rare stamp collection," Mr. Ganz wrote. "He
used the funds to bribe the guards to let us go."
Traveling by night, the family crossed the Alps into Switzerland
and arrived in Davos. Initially, they were housed in a jail when
the authorities could find no other place for them. Soon a
Protestant minister arranged for Claude to spend the rest of the
war at a boarding school in Schiers, Switzerland.
In February 1947, the family boarded the S.S. America and sailed
to New York, where they were deemed displaced people with no
nationality. They crossed the country by train to reach California.
One of Mr. Ganz's uncles had a pickle-making business in
Young Claude completed his high-school education in San
Francisco. He improved his English by spending long days in movie
theaters. When asked where they came from, the Ganz family
struggled to find a simple answer. "My father finessed the answer
by saying, 'We came from France,' " Mr. Ganz wrote. "I followed his
lead, which earned me the name 'Frenchy' from my new friends."
In the early 1950s, he served in the U.S. Army, which based him
in California. Among other things, he taught French at an Army
language school. He then completed a bachelor's degree in
management at the University of California, Berkeley.
Mr. Ganz joined Dymo Industries in 1960 and soon oversaw
international operations. The company, then based in Berkeley, was
a small conglomerate whose best-known product was a hand-held
plastic device that punched embossed letters onto sticky tape used
for labeling. In the 1960s, it was a faddish household item. When
he became CEO in 1970, sales had leveled off at roughly $80 million
By 1978, he had diversified the company into data-transmission
and printing equipment. Annual sales topped $220 million. He
initially resisted a 1978 takeover bid from Esselte AB but
acquiesced after the Swedish company raised its offer to about $66
Mr. Ganz led several smaller businesses in the 1980s and early
1990s, including one, Aquanautics Corp., that tried to find uses
for technology developed at Duke University to extract oxygen from
seawater. One idea was an engine to power what he called underwater
The sea is "a very, very important resource," Mr. Ganz told the
Journal of Commerce in 1986. "If you really think long term, that's
where we'll have to go, as things run out."
His spell advising the Bosnians on economic reforms often proved
frustrating. "The country was not ready," he said later.
Mr. Ganz spent much of his retirement with his wife, Lynn Ganz,
at their home in Glen Ellen, where they grew grapes on part of
their 10-acre lot and made Syrah wine for their own enjoyment.
His survivors include his wife, four children, 10 grandchildren
and two great grandsons. An earlier marriage ended in divorce.
In the early 2000s, Mr. Ganz received a small amount of
restitution for the persecution of his family during the Nazi era.
He donated the money and raised additional funds to start a Jewish
studies program at Sonoma State University.
Write to James R. Hagerty at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
February 25, 2021 10:14 ET (15:14 GMT)
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