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Subject: Louis Wiesner, Former Diplomat and Refugee Aide

he was 86
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Date Posted: October 01, 2002 1:37:03 EDT

Louis A. Wiesner, a retired American diplomat who played a prominent role in the International Rescue Committee, one of the largest nonreligious groups that helps refugees around the world, died on Sept. 20 in Meredith, N.H., the group has announced.

In 1975, Mr. Wiesner retired from the State Department, where he had been director of the Office of Refugees and Migration. He then joined the International Rescue Committee, which was founded in 1933 at the suggestion of Albert Einstein to help Jews escape from Nazi Germany, though it later broadened its mandate to cover all refugees and displaced people.

His most important contribution was to create the organization's medical programs division and direct it from 1975 to 1984. It provides health services to refugees and others displaced by wars and natural disasters. Mr. Wiesner was instrumental in recruiting Dr. James Strickler, the retired dean of the Dartmouth Medical School who is now co-chairman of the group.

Louis Arnold Wiesner was born on April 14, 1916, in Port Huron, Mich. He was educated at the University of Michigan and Harvard, where he was a teaching fellow from 1939 to 1942. He worked at the Council on Foreign Relations before working in the Office of Strategic Services from 1943 to 1944. He then joined the Foreign Service.

He served in West Germany under the Allied Military Government and in Vietnam, from 1967 to 1970. In Vietnam, as United States disaster relief coordinator and subsequently regional refugee chief, he urged the United States military to keep its bombing and artillery fire away from populated areas.

After retiring from the rescue committee in 1984, he published a study of Vietnam refugees, "Victims and Survivors: Displaced Persons and Other War Victims in Viet-Nam, 1954-75" (Greenwood Press, 1988).

Surviving are his wife, Elizabeth Phenix, and four children, Jonathan, of Waccabuc, N.Y.; Elizabeth, of South Tamworth, N.H.; Margaret Sargent of Tamworth, N.H.; and Andrew, of Dover, N.H.

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