The German-language writer Elias Canetti lived from 1905 to 1994 and won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1981 for his writings about mass psychology and the rise of fascism, which he witnessed. If I live long enough, I will read his great book, Crowds and Power. I believe the following quote is from that book.
It’s the first death which infects everyone with the feelings of being threatened. It is impossible to overrate the part played by the first dead man in the kindling of wars. Rulers who want to unleash war know very well that they must first procure or invent a first victim. It needs not be anybody of particular importance and can even be someone quite unknown. Nothing matters except his death; and it must be believed the enemy is responsible for this. Every possible cause of his death is suppressed except one: his membership of the group to which one belongs oneself.
Click on Today Is the Eleventh Anniversary of an Enormous Opportunity for how Canetti’s quote applies to the world today. [Added 9/12/12]
Click on Elias Canetti wiki for his Wikipedia biography.
Click on Elias Canetti (Bulgarian writer) for his Britannica Online biography.