When the 1940s dawned, many in the euthanasia movement believed it was only a matter of time before euthanasia became legal in the United States. The 1930s had been marked by a flurry of encouraging events, from headline-grabbing mercy killings to the founding of the Euthanasia Society of America and England's Voluntary Euthanasia Legislation Society.
But euthanasia advocates were in for a surprise. At the very time they were lobbying to get a voluntary euthanasia bill introduced into the New York State legislature, the ground beneath them began to shift seismically. World War II broke out, and as Hitler's war machine marched eastward across Europe in late 1939, news of Nazi atrocities against mental patients and handicapped children filtered back to America. Euthanasia defenders in the United States discovered to their horror that many Americans associated their movement with these murders. For a group that prided itself on its liberalism, humanitarianism, and progressive views, the stigma of Nazism was particularly embarrassing.
Initially caught off guard, euthanasia proponents in America over