As this book is going to print, events of enormous historical significance are sweeping Europe. One of the consequences of these developments is the reemergence of a phenomenon, nationalism, which since 1945 has more or less lain dormant. As postwar Europe split into two rival blocs, the respective members set aside historic differences in the interest of unity and security. Traditional national and ethnic rivalries either receded in importance as they gave way to efforts at integration, as was the case in the West, or were forcibly repressed, as in the case of the East. Nationalism had become an anachronism, relegated to the dustbin of recent history. Few regarded it as a vital force in a modern Europe, and few would have anticipated its resurgence.
But the East European revolutions, the reunification of Germany, and the disintegration of the Soviet Union have revived this dormant force. These developments have liberated and given free play to countless urges, including those based on ethnicity and national distinctions. Old ethnic animosities, especially in the east, repressed by Soviet force and ignored by Marxist ideology since 1945, have reappeared. Hungarians and Rumanians are resuming their ancient rivalry; Slovaks are questioning their relationship with the Czechs; Croats and Serbs have returned to the bloodletting of the war years. Over this arena of ethnic conflict and rivalries looms another historic presence, until recently laid low by the outcome of World War II but resurrected and magnified by the reunification of the two Germanies -- a powerful, unified Germany in central Europe.
German reunification, occurring concurrently with the tumultuous changes in eastern Europe, raises once more the most important nationality question in central and eastern Europe in the twentieth century -- what to do with the region's Germans, and what role they should play in the region. It also brings up the question of former as well as future relationships between Germany and eastern Europe. In a new relationship, past experiences will play a decisive role. Histor