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Karl Marx’s London Tomb Damaged In A Suspected Hammer Attack

Even in death Karl Marx can’t rest easy. The Father of Communism’s life was disrupted by exile and expulsion as his profile and radical ideas spread throughout Europe. He finally made a home for himself in London where he wrote “Das Kapital,” helped found the German Workers’ Educational Society and died of pleurisy in 1883.

Now, The Guardian reports, Marx’s tomb in London’s Highgate Cemetery, was subject to a suspected hammer attack – it might never be fully restored.

Ian Dungavell, the chief executive of the Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust, called the suspected act of vandalism, which appears to have singled out the marble plaque from Marx’s original 1881 family gravestone, a “particularly inarticulate form of political protest.”

“You can see from the photograph that the person has really done their best to obliterate Karl Marx’s name,” Dungavell told The Guardian.

The monument, which is listed as a Grade I structure by the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England, the highest ranking awarded by the body for structures of “exceptional interest,” has drawn its share of controversy since its unveiling in 1956. Dungavell noted the tomb was previously subject to paint attacks, protests, the forced removal of Marx’s bust and a January 1970 pipe bomb explosion that damaged the front of the monument.

The Metropolitan Police said in a statement that the initial phase of their investigation, which started Monday afternoon, when the damage was first observed, was closed. They did not name a suspect.

“I would guess it has been done with a relatively blunt metal instrument,” Dungavell told The Guardian. “There are rust marks, and the cuts seem to be broad rather than deep, so I would say it was probably a hammer.” Judging by the angle of attacks Dungavell believes the culprit may be left-handed.

The monument, despite continued attempts at defacement, is not insured, but The Guardian reports that the cemetery is speaking the Marx Grave Trust, which owns the tomb, about the funding for necessary repairs. They are also exploring the possibility of installing CCTV near the gravesite.

“I’m hoping we will be able to get a specialist stone conservator to consolidate the white marble and then if we can get the lead lettering back it might be that you don’t notice it,” Dungavell said.

Marx’s tomb also houses the philosopher’s wife Jenny von Westphalen, their daughter Eleanor and grandson Harry Longuet and their housekeeper Helena Dumuth.

“Regardless of what anyone thinks about Marx’s philosophy I just think it is an appalling thing to do,” Dungavell told The Guardian. “On a human level this is a grave of his wife, his own grave and other members of his family.”

PJ Grisar is the Forward’s culture intern. He can be reached at [email protected]


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