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  • Writer's pictureFred Litwin

State Department Documents on Permindex

Updated: Apr 4, 2023


Permindex brochure found in Clay Shaw's file at NARA.


Permindex was a Swiss corporation founded by George Mantello in the mid-1950s. He was a very successful businessman who wanted to take advantage of the European Community and give an opportunity for manufacturers to exhibit their products. Because of Clay Shaw's success at building the International Trade Mart in New Orleans, Mantello offered Clay Shaw a position on the Permindex board. But Shaw never attended a meeting.


In conspiracy land, Permindex is an evil corporation that used CIA money to fund fascist elements in Italy. Those allegations all stemmed from a series of articles in the Communist-controlled newspaper Paese Sera. As I have shown on my blog and in my book, On the Trail of Delusion, Paese Sera made many mistakes in its articles. For instance, their description of Louis Bloomfield, a Montreal lawyer who represented some major shareholders, was just plain wrong.


Unfortunately, JFK conspiracy books rely upon Paese Sera for their information on Permindex. And thus, their readers will not learn that George Mantello saved thousands of Jews during the Holocaust.


In fact, there are very few sources of primary documents on Permindex:

Here is the full set of State Department documents on Permindex:


1. Foreign Service Despatch, January 2, 1957


A press conference was held at the end of 1956 to announce Permindex, a "permanent international industrial exhibition" in Basel, Switzerland. Ferenc Nagy, former Prime Minister of Hungary, flew in from the United States to help announce the project. The plan is for Permindex to build a 13-floor office=type building and a 15-floor hotel with 200 rooms.



2. State Department Despatch, January 15, 1957


Hans Seligman, one of the bankers associated with Permindex, and Ferenc Nagy have given little information about exactly who is investing in Permindex. The consulate has heard that the Schroder Bank might be one of the financiers.



3. State Department Memorandum, January 15, 1957



Ferenc Nagy is aided in Permindex by George Mantello. Two sites in Basel have been selected for the exhibition and the hotel. An agreement has been reached between Swiss Industries Fair of Basel and Permindex -- Permindex will be an exhibition of international manufacturers, while the other organization will be dedicated to Swiss products. Communist countries will be allowed to exhibit at Permindex. The three buildings (the exhibition, offices, and a hotel) will cost about $10 million.



4. Foreign Service Despatch, February 1, 1957



The local Swiss government is torn between securing funds to ensure Permindex locates in Basel and having confidence in the business integrity of its promoters. A source has told the consulate that George Mantello served in the El Salvadorean consulate in Geneva: "It appears that he was actively engaged there in the wartime Jewish refugee racket, promising to have Jews allowed to escape from Nazi countries for a price which was to be paid to him."


This unfortunate sentence has repeated in many conspiracy books. The Jewish community held an investigation after the war and found that Mantello had not been paid - and that he had saved thousands of lives. He was actually a hero.


The Despatch also claims that the Hans Seligman bank was perhaps "placed on the American Proclaimed List and the British Statutory List." This was a list of sanctioned firms who allegedly were working with the Axis powers. I have not been able to find proof of this.


It appears that Seligman had paid some ransom to save 250 Jews from the Nazis.


Lastly, it appears doubtful that Schroder Bank is one of the investors in Permindex.



5. Foreign Service Despatch, March 7, 1957

Because of the lack of information about the financing of Permindex, there are questions about its soundness: "The press organ of the Social-Democratic Party, the Basel Arbeiter-Zeitung, carried an editorial in its issue of March 2, 1957, raising the question as to whether the Permindex is not just a bit of hot air."



6. Foreign Service Despatch, October 8, 1957


The American consulate was interested in Permindex because it was supposed to be financed largely by American capital. However, this has not been confirmed and the backers of Permindex are having trouble raising the required capital.


7. Foreign Service Despatch, April 9, 1958



The Socialist newspaper, the Arbeiter-Zeitung, continues its criticism of Permindex. It has also attacked the characters of Ferenc Nagy and George Mantello: "It charged that only the action of influential friends saved him [Mantello] from expulsion from Switzerland for illegal traffic in gold during the war."



In May 1944, Mantello was arrested by Swiss authorities on the formal charge related to his black-market activities. He had purchased a thousand chronographs which were sent to New York for British Intelligence (they wanted them for fighter planes). But he was also questioned about the sale of Salvadorian papers. He was detained for sixteen days and was only released when he paid two thousand Swiss francs to cover any fines. John Winant, American Ambassador to the U.K., reported on the results of a State Department investigation in March 1944. He noted that "the consul of San Salvador [Mantello] has acted from humanitarian motives and has charged no fee at all."


I should also add that George Mantello faced ongoing harassment by Heinrich Rothmund, the antisemitic head of the Swiss Alien Police. Here is an excerpt from David Kranzler's excellent 2000 book, The Man Who Stopped the Trains to Auschwitz: (page 241)

The contradictory behavior of the Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs during the last few months of the siege of Budapest, as well as the persistent post-war harassment of Mantello, made it clear that several factions within the Swiss government sought to disenfranchise him. It appears that Rothmund, Mantello's old nemesis, who had been behind his arrest in May 1944, was the primary culprit. Rothmund, head of the Swiss Alien Police, disliked foreigners in general and Jewish foreigners in particular. He and Federal Councilor von Streeiger had been the major catalysts behind the German policy of stamping the J on all German-Jewish passports to prevent a mass flight across the German-Swiss border, Rothmund also enforced the racial laws of refoulement on "Jewish" "racial" refugees in contrast to the more acceptable "political" refugees. Moreover, as we saw earlier, Mantello never hesitated to respond to Rothmund without fear or even respect, a fact that surely exacerbated the police chief's animosity.

The Arbeiter-Zeitung sees Permindex as a threat to Swiss industries, but another major newspaper, The National-Zeitung, disagrees.


8. Foreign Service Despatch, May 21, 1958


The backers of Permindex fail to raise enough capital and the project fails.


9. Department of State Instruction, June 4, 1958

Permindex now plans to open in Rome.


10. Foreign Service Despatch, July 18, 1958


Permindex has set up a wholly owned subsidiary, Centro Mondiale Commerciale, to serve as the "contracting agent" in Italy and to deal with the Italian authorities. Clay Shaw of New Orleans will be added to the Board of Directors.


11. State Department Despatch, November 7, 1958



This document discusses the Board of Directors of Permindex.


Discussion


Permindex ultimately failed. They simply could not find enough tenants to make the venture profitable. Just about all of the information about Permindex in a variety of conspiracy books comes from the Paese Sera series of articles that appeared three days after Clay Shaw was arrested. A lot of the information in Paese Sera was just plain wrong and a lot of it was just rumors.


In upcoming posts, I will be examining the footnotes of the Permindex sections in conspiracy books.



Previous Relevant Blog Posts on Permindex


Chris Peeks interviews me about Permindex.

Conspiracy theorists mislead people on Permindex/CMC.


Many books maintain that the President of Permindex, Ferenc Nagy, lived in Dallas in 1963. He actually lived in Herndon, Virginia.


Was Montreal lawyer Louis Bloomfield running an assassination bureau?


Louis Bloomfield was a good man who raised a lot of money for Canadian charities. Unfortunately, conspiracy theorists have linked him to the JFK assassination.


Clay Shaw was on the Board of Directors of Permindex. Here is his file.


If Jim Garrison wanted to learn more about Louis Bloomfield, all he had to do was pick up the phone or go to Montreal.


Revealed for the first time.


Yes, a conspiracy book actually makes this claim.


Revealed for the first time.


They were involved!


George Mantello was a hero.

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