What appeared particularly important was the question of historical material obtained within the course of works which, due to its context and quantity, is often perceived as mass material - i.e. homogenous from the functional point of view - but it appears in a large number within a limited space. Mass material and its formal qualification already at the stage of collecting it from the excavation in the course of activities constitutes the source of divergent emotions and is connected with subjective decisions of the archaeologists working onsite.
It is worth emphasizing that legal provisions do not contain the notion of a mass object and regulations concerning the way of proceeding with relation to historical items forming so-called martyrological heritage are missing, which at various subsequent stages of work with such historical items becomes the source of doubts and organizational difficulties.
Martyrological heritage constitutes a new notion and it includes a number of scopes and definitions referring to different areas. What is crucial for explaining its full meaning is the context of the place to which it refers, i.e. memorial sites, the premises of former Nazi concentration camps and extermination camps. Former camp premises are in their majority subject to conservators' protection and conducting any works within them requires administrative decisions of Voivodeship Conservators from the given regions of Poland. Some of the areas historically forming the camp zone remain today under the custody of museum institutions established in order to preserve their authenticity and commemorate the victims as well as protect against potential devastation or destruction. Unfortunately, some of the areas are deprived of such custody as from the administrative point of view they do not form part of museum entities.
Martyrological heritage involves the area subject to protection, involving the complete historical establishment or complex together with its infrastructure (fencing posts with insulators, barbed wire, buildings, space between the buildings, the arrangement of roads and passageways). It also involves movable objects, items stolen from the victims (suitcases, personal belongings, powder boxes, cutlery, enamel cookware, photographs, civilian shoes, baby clothes, civilian clothes) or those manufactured in the camp and used during prisoners’ everyday life (bowls, striped uniforms, clogs).
Archaeological search during conservation of brick barracks at the Auschwitz II-Birkenau site. Photo: Auschwitz Memorial