Diana Reiter had been told all her life that she was too outspoken, and she saw the truth in that.
As a child, her mother would scold her incessantly for losing patience and snapping at anyone whom displeased her. Teachers wrote every year on her report card that Diana was very smart, but needed to get along better with her peers.
While her mother would complain that Diana had such a temper and was "too smart for her own good", her father would just chuckle and pat her head affectionately. "That's my Diana," he would say with pride.
Indeed, Diana was very intelligent. She had graduated with honours in civil engineering from the University of Milan and had always been the top of her class. She had a quick wit and was a very logical thinker. Her parents had both pushed her very hard in school – even though she was a girl, both of them were convinced that she could make something of herself if she got a good education.
But then everything changed. The Nazis occupied Poland in 1939 and restrictions were passed that limited Jews from doing almost everything. Jews had to wear a yellow star on their clothing, they could not go to movies or the swimming pool, they could not shop with everyone else, and they could not even sit on park benches. And in 1942, all Jews were ordered to move into walled-off ghettos in major cities of Poland. Diana was forced to leave her home and move to the ghetto at Krakow.
Life in the ghetto was difficult, but bearable. Food was scarce and the conditions were cramped, but life went on for Diana Reiter. When the camp was liquidated in 1943 and its inhabitants moved to the Plaszow concentration camp, Diana's education enabled her to get a job as foreman of construction, and she was given extra rations as a result of this job. She felt that being foreman of construction protected her, and meant she was invaluable to the Nazis, and foolishly let her guard down.
Diana had always had a temper, and hadn't yet learned in the camp when to hold her tongue. One day while new barracks were being built, she noticed that the officers had made a mistake. "The entire foundation must be torn down and repoured," she told the supervising SS officer.
"We're not going to do that. It's fine! Are you telling us we made a mistake?" demanded the officer.
Diana snapped back, "Yes, I am. The entire barracks will collapse if you don't listen to me! I'm a graduate in civil engineering from the University of Milan and I know what I'm talking about. It must be redone!"
The officer cursed. "Jewish bitch!"
Just then, the Commandant Amon Goeth happened to walk by and noticed Diana and the SS officer arguing. Amon Goeth was renowned throughout the camp for his cruelty. He would stand at his balcony every morning at 6:00 and just shoot prisoners randomly from above. Everyone in the camp feared him.
Amon walked over to the SS officer. "What seems to be the problem?" he asked pleasantly.
Diana ran over to him. "Herr Commandant, the entire foundation has to be torn down and repoured. If not, there will be at least a subsidence at the southern end of the barracks. Subsidence, and then collapse."
He appeared amused. "And you are an engineer?"
"Yes," she replied. "My name is Diana Reiter. I'm a graduate of Civil Engineering from the University of Milan."
Amon laughed coldly. "Ah, an educated Jew... like Karl Marx himself. Unterscharfuehrer!" he called to the officer.
Diana looked up at him in indignation and a sudden fear. "Herr Commandant! I'm only trying to do my job!"
"Yes, and I'm doing mine."
"Sir," said the SS officer, "she's foreman of construction."
"I'm not going to have arguments with these people," said Amon.
And in that moment Diana saw the cruelty and arrogance of the Nazis, that they would shoot her just for doing her job and telling them they made a mistake – for having the courage to stand up.
She started to tremble, realizing that her fate was sealed. She probably should not have yelled at the officer, and even though she had been telling the truth, her temper had gotten the better of her as it always had, and in Plaszow, there were no second chances. They were going to shoot her.
The SS officer grabbed Diana roughly and started to drag her away, and then Diana made up her mind that she would die with dignity. She would not show these monsters her fear.
But Amon held up his hand. "No. Shoot her here, on my authority."
The SS officer realized that Amon wanted to make an example of Diana and nodded to him. He pushed Diana to the ground.
She gathered up all the composure she could muster, knowing that in a minute all this would be over. Lying on the cold, wet ground, waiting for this man to put a bullet in the back of her head, she said quietly, "It will take more than that."
Shooting her would not be enough to break the spirit of the Jews. They would survive this even if she did not.
Amon said dryly, misunderstanding the deeper meaning in her words, "I'm sure you're right."
Then he raised his gun and shot Diana in the back of the head. She crumpled to the ground, dead.
Then he looked to the other officer, seemingly pleased with himself. "Take it down, repour it, rebuild it, like she said."
Diana's words, though, rang true. Good would triumph over evil as it always did, and even if she was not alive to see it, the war would end, and the Jews would survive.