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Murder of Jiri Fielder, researcher of Jewish heritage, being probed in Prague

(JTA) — Police in Prague are investigating the murder of Jiri Fiedler, an influential researcher on Jewish heritage in the Czech Republic.

Fiedler, 78, and his wife, Dagmar, 74, were found dead in their apartment last month, but news reports at the time did not reveal their names.

Reports said the murders were believed to have occurred around the end of January, but their bodies were not discovered until mid-February.

Fiedler, who was not Jewish, began documenting Jewish heritage sites in what is now the Czech Republic in the 1970s, riding his bicycle to remote towns and villages to photograph and describe abandoned Jewish cemeteries and former synagogues, rabbis’ homes, Jewish schools and other sites that stood in ruins or were transformed for other use.

His work aroused the suspicion of the authorities, and more than once he was called in by the secret police because of his activities.

“At a time when the Jewish cultural heritage in Bohemia and Moravia was treated with utter contempt, he produced a trove of work that can be drawn on by future generations of researchers in the area of Jewish topography,” the Prague Jewish Museum, where Fiedler worked as a specialist and research director from 1996 to 2012, said in a statement.

Only after the fall of communism could Fielder publish his 1992 book “Jewish Sites of Bohemia and Moravia.” His work has been transferred into an electronic database of Jewish heritage in the Czech Republic that is constantly being updated.

The museum called his murder “a painful shock to all of the museum’s staff who knew Jiri Fiedler as a helpful colleague and a wonderful person.”

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