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Security review triggered after second attack on Marx tomb

By Angus McNeice | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-02-25 00:43

The grave of German philosopher Karl Marx at London's Highgate Cemetery seen after it has been vandalised; the memorial was supposedly attacked with a hammer, Feb 5, 2019.[Photo/IC]

Highgate Cemetery in London has confirmed it is conducting a security review following the second attack on the tomb of Karl Marx this month.

Last week an unidentified vandal scrawled anti-communist messaging across the monument to the German political theorist that sits in the North London burial ground. In early February, someone repeatedly struck the plaque in the center of the monument in a suspected hammer attack.

In a separate attack in France on Tuesday, vandals spray painted swastikas on 96 headstones in a Jewish cemetery in Quatzenheim, a village near Strasbourg. A second cemetery in the area and a Holocaust memorial have both been attacked in the last two months.

The Marx Grave Trust is working to restore the Marx monument, and Highgate Cemetery is collaborating with heritage organization Historic England on the security review.

"The role of the review will be to look at what steps we might reasonably take," said Ian Dungavell, chief executive of the Friends of Highgate Cemetery. "We will be considering the cost and intrusiveness of precautions, against the damage caused and the frequency of the attacks."

Marx was exiled from Germany and moved to London from Brussels in 1849. He produced some of his most influential work in the UK, including Das Kapital.

In 1956, the now-disbanded Communist Party of Great Britain funded the construction of the 2-meter monument to Marx in Highgate Cemetery. The cemetery is a popular visitor attraction, and many tourists from China visit the memorial each year.

"No one expects someone to attack a monument in a cemetery in this way," said Dungavell. "It is disturbing for everyone, including the people who have their own family graves in the cemetery - it creates a great feeling of concern and worry. It's a particularly thoughtless attack that I think everyone was surprised by."

The most recent attack saw bright red graffiti drawn across three sides of the plinth that supports a bronze bust of Marx's head. The vandal wrote "Doctrine of Hate", "Architect of Genocide" and "Memorial to Bolshevik Holocaust" on the memorial.

"Vandals back at Marx Memorial, Highgate Cemetery," Highgate Cemetery officials wrote on Twitter. "Senseless. Stupid. Ignorant. Whatever you think about Marx's legacy, this is not the way to make the point."

The Young Communist League of Britain, also called the YCL, condemned the attack.

"This attack is an indication of Marx's resurgence in influence across Britain and across the globe," the YCL wrote in a statement. "In recent years we have seen fascists and anti-communists grow in confidence. We must unite across the labor movement to ensure that the confidence, which acts like this will inspire, is quelled before it can fully develop."

The attack on the cemetery in France occurred just hours before planned nationwide marches against a recent surge of anti-Semitic acts in the country.

France Minister of the Interior Christophe Castaner said that anti-Semitic attacks were up by 74 percent in 2018 compared to the previous year.

French President Emmanuel Macron told Jewish leaders that the government would take strong action against perpetrators.

"We shall act, we shall pass laws, we shall punish," Macron said from Quatzenheim. "Those who did this are not worthy of the Republic."

Contact the writer at angus@mail.chinadailyuk.com

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