Before the outbreak of the Second World War, Bolesław (1898-1949) and Leonia Śliwiński née Berendt (1898-1978) lived in Kielce together with their four children. Bolesław was secretary of the District Workers’ Committee of the Polish Socialist Party in this town and Leonia, teacher by education, raised their children. The Śliwińskis rented an apartment in a house at 5 Leśna Street, where the Friedman family also lived. Efraim and Rywka née Ferleger had two children: a son Dawid, born in 1932 and a daughter Frania – born around 1938. Friedman, together with his brothers, ran a small women’s footwear factory.
During the Nazi occupation the Śliwińskis moved to a house located on the outskirts of the nearby village of Niwki Daleszyckie. It was the 12-year-old Leon who had to support his family. The boy used to go to Kielce by train and to sell food in town. He also used to smuggle food to the ghetto – it was founded in March 1941 and people were starving there. After most of the inhabitants of the ghetto were deported to the extermination camp in Treblinka in August 1942 and then murdered, a labor camp was founded there. In the ghetto Leon Śliwiński used to meet his childhood friend, Dawid Friedman. The parents of the 14-year-old boy had been murdered by the Nazis and it was Mosze (Monek) Rozenberg who was looking after their children. Rozenberg and his wife Hadasa were neighbors of the Friedmans in the Kielce ghetto. They themselves were childless but they took care of Dawid and Frania after the death of their parents.
Rozenberg, who was looking after Dawid, asked Leon to lead the boy out of the ghetto. “I said I needed to talk to my parents. After I asked them and they agreed, I told him I would lead Dawid out” – recalls Leon Śliwiński in an interview conducted by the Museum of the History of Polish Jews
In April 1943, just before the liquidation of the camp, both boys escaped through one of the ghetto gates, taking advantage of the guards’ inattention. Asked about the motives for his conduct, Leon Śliwiński answers: “I wanted to save Dawid’s life because I knew they were deporting people from the ghetto to the concentration camp and murdering them there”.
Bolesław Śliwiński got Dawid a certificate in the name of Zygmunt Śliwiński and presented him as a cousin from Warsaw. The neighbors did not guess the true identity of the boy, who lived with the Śliwińskis until the liberation in January 1945. At first Dawid’s guardian from the ghetto helped to support the boy, but in February 1944 he was murdered together with Dawid’s sister and a few other Jews hiding in a nearby village, at the house of the Śliwińskis’ friend – Stefan Sawa.
After the war, Dawid Friedman returned to Kielce and then left to Kraków. In 1947 he left to Israel. He had been corresponding with Leon Śliwiński until 1950, when Śliwiński joined the army and wanted to stop their contacts. In 1993 Friedman’s friend found Leon Śliwiński. In 1996 he and his wife were Dawid’s guests in Israel.