Johannes U. Hoeber, 72, one of the founding members of the Americans for Democratic Action, died of a heart attack at his home here Sunday.

Born in Zurich, Switzerland, Mr. Hoeber was raised and educated in Germany receiving his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Heidelberg in 1930. He also studied at the London School Economics.

Mr. Hoeber was arrested and imprisoned by the Nazis for several weeks in 1933 and spent the next five years working with the anti-Nazi underground in Germany.

In 1938, faced with questioning by the Gestapo, Mr. Hoeber fled to the United States, where he settled in Philadelphia. There he worked for several charitable agencies as an administrator.

He was also active in the reform campaign and in the administration of philadelphia Mayor Joseph Clark, who later served in the U.S. Senate. From 1951 to 1962 Mr. Hoeber served as Philadelphia's deputy commissioner of welfare.

In 1962 Mr. Hoeber became assistant administrator of the Area Redevelopment Administration of the Commerce Department and five years later he became chief of the Refugee and Social Welfare staff, Vietnam bureau, of the Agency for International Development.

In 1972, Mr. Hoeber retired from the AID and received the agency's meritorious honor award. He worked for the next three years as a consultant to the Council of International Programs for Youth Leaders and Social Workers.

Looking back on his life, Mr. Hoeber recently wrote that he was most proud of "my participation in the fight for freedom and democracy in Germany . . . my success in becoming a useful and respected citizen of the United States, and the professional careers of my daughter and two sons."

Mr. Hoeber is survived by his wife, Elfriede Fischer Hoeber, of the home in Southwest; his three children, Susanne Hoeber Rudolph, a professor at The University of Chicago, Thomas R. a magazine editor who lives in Sacramento, Calif., and who works for the National Labor Relations Board in Philadelphia; two sisters, Dr. Ursula Hoeber of Philadelphia and Gabriele Blashy of Temple, Tex.; and eight grandchildren.