BONN, West Germany (AP) _ Some unpleasant memories confronted Germany as this week's summit talks turned to German unification - among them the rise of fascism and European suffering at the hands of Germans twice this century.

But the Germans have played a big role in recalling the memories, convinced that is the best way to show the Soviet Union and the rest of the world they do not want a replay of the past.

The main German question under discussion by Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev and President Bush is the military status of a united Germany.

The United States and West Germany have insisted the state belong to NATO, but Gorbachev has proposed letting the 35-nation Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe settle a united Germany's military future.

West Germany initially responded cautiously. A government official in Bonn pointed out Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher has already called for strengthening of the council. However, no West German leaders have suggested the council should decide what military alliance West Germany should belong.

Friday's Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper said the summit's success hinges on the ''German question.''

It noted that the 1987 summit between Gorbachev and former President Reagan was a success by virtue of an agreement to begin scrapping intermediate-range nuclear weapons. But it said in a commentary that the German military issue far outweighed any other considerations at the current summit.

''When Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan got together, the luster of the disarmament treaty cast a gleam on the meeting. ''But not much of a show can be made of that (disarmament) in view of the question of German unity and German alliance membership,'' said the newspaper.

The Soviets have said a big reason they oppose a united Germany in NATO is the deep-seated memory of the Nazi Third Reich and the carnage World War II brought to the Soviet Union.

But West Germans have tried to use the past to reassure the Soviets, and to state Germans' right to make their own decisions.

Shortly before the summit, Kohl pointedly reminded Moscow that pushing Germany ''into isolation'' has a historic precedent.

''There must be no second Versailles,'' Kohl said, referring to the 1919 treaty that humiliated Germany and has been linked to the rise of fascism.

''Whenever Germany chose - out of overbearing blindness or criminal hubris - to pursue a separate path or when former enemies forced it into isolation following its defeat, the immediate consequence for Europe was conflict, instability and uncertainty,'' Kohl said.

West German leaders believe that anchoring a united Germany to NATO is actually the best means of protecting the Soviet Union's security interests.

''A Germany that is not bound into an alliance in a clear and effective way must also appear to the Soviet Union as a greater danger for stable development in Europe,'' said Uwe Ronneburger, chairman of the Defense Committee in West Germany's parliament, the Bundestag.

Burkhard Dobiey, a high-level official for the West German Inter-German Relations Ministry, said he believed the Soviets are truly worried about German military might.

''But the reality is, Germany is a state that has renounced every use of violence or threat of violence,'' he said in a radio interview Thursday night. ''It represents no threat to other nations, also not to the Soviet Union.

''I think the real problem for the Soviet leadership is that for decades NATO has been portrayed in Moscow as the arch-enemy. The problem is, how one changes this picture.''

Genscher has suggested broader financial ties between the Soviets and the West, coupled with drastic disarmament and the eventual development of new security institutions, as ways to help preserve European stability.

He said Friday that the alliance debate concerns creating conditions in Europe that make NATO membership ''attractive also for the Soviet Union.''

''This means, the fundamental change in Europe will transform a confrontational relationship to one of cooperation,'' he said on Deutschlandfunk radio.