West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher's visit to Prague, which ends today, is intended to break up the months-long logjam between Bonn and Eastern Europe.
In particular, officials here fervently hope it can help ease the impasse between East and West Germany over the 70-odd East German squatters in the West German Embassy in Prague. After three months holed up in the embassy, more than half the squatters have gone on a partial hunger strike to press their bid for permits from the East German government to emigrate to West Germany.
Mr. Genscher's hopes for an upturn in relations with Eastern Europe are modest at this point. Officials here acknowledge that real improvement must await both general improvement in superpower relations and the playing out of the Soviet anti-German campaign that is expected to reach its peak next May with the 40th anniversary of the World War II defeat of Hitler's Germany.
Nonetheless, Genscher called the time ''ripe'' for better East-West relations as he left for Prague Tuesday. He was referring especially to the forthcoming superpower talks between Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko and US Secretary of State George Shultz in Geneva. Bonn hopes its own dialogue with Eastern Europe can resume once these talks have relaunched US-Soviet nuclear arms control negotiations and the Soviet Union has finished its 40th-anniversary anti-German nostalgia.
The West German dialogue with Eastern Europe was broken off with the cancellation in September, under Soviet pressure, of the planned visits to Bonn by East German leader Erich Honecker and Bulgarian leader Todor Zhivkov - and with the echoing of Soviet accusations about West German ''revanch-ism'' in Czechoslovakia, Poland, and to a lesser extent East Germany.
Genscher had hoped to restart the Central European dialogue last month by visiting Poland, but he called off his trip at the last moment over differences about his program and accompanying journalists. He yielded on one point to make this week's Czech visit: He did not insist that Prague grant a visa to the very conservative Die Welt journalist Carl Gustav Strohm. That had been a sticking point with the Poles.
The Czechoslovaks are permitting Genscher to lay a wreath on the grave of a World War II German soldier, however - another sticking point with the Poles - as long as he also visits the Lidice site of a World War II German atrocity. And West German officials hope the consequent willingness of this most hard-line of Moscow's East European allies to receive Genscher will open the way for Poland to reschedule his Warsaw visit.
East-West German relations are, as usual, more complicated. The two states managed to maintain remarkably friendly relations during the general East-West frost from January through this fall. One measure of this amity is the official East German permission for a 24-year record of close to 40,000 East Germans to emigrate to West Germany this year. Another is the conspicuous restraint with which the East German news media repeat the Soviet charges of West German ''re-vanchism,'' or alleged attempts to regain territory to the East lost in World War II.
The increased willingness of East Berlin to allow emigration has itself whetted the desire to leave of an estimated more than 100,000 East Germans, however. And as the success of one peculiar route to emigration - sitting in in the West German mission in East Berlin and in West German embassies in Prague, Warsaw, Budapest, and Bucharest - has become known, the number of squatters has multiplied.
The high point so far was reached last September, when more than 200 squatters sat in in the four embassies. Most were persuaded to return home to East Germany on the assurance that they would not be prosecuted for trying to flee the country and could apply to emigrate legally. A number of this group of ex-squatters have quietly been allowed to leave East Germany, according to Bonn officials, with the West German government paying an unpublicized 90,000 deutsche marks (about $30,000) per person to the East Berlin government. Now East Berlin is refusing to let any more ex-squatters emigrate until the present squatters in Prague end their highly publicized sit-in.
So far efforts to persuade the squatters to leave by both Inner-German Ministry State Secretary Ludwig Rehlinger and East Berlin go-between lawyer Wolfgang Vogel have been to no avail. At this point West German officials do not rule out the possibility that there may be some agents provocateurs among the Prague holdouts who are trying to strengthen the hard-liners in both East and West Germany against the pragmatists, who have always quietly resolved the many previous cases of East German squatters.