The real story behind Stalin's first son?

It has emerged that Stalin's first son Yakov Dzhugashvili (1907-1943), a Red Army battery commander, was probably not captured by Germans forces near Minsk during WW2, as Kremlin propaganda has portrayed for decades. Instead, an article by the German magazine 'Der Spiegel' suggests that Yakov surrendered to Germans during the Nazis' 1941 invasion of the Soviet Union.

Ref: AWNS-19431117-18-1, Red Armies drive westward, 1943, Heritage Images
Stalin'a hatred for his son Yasha as he used to call him, is well known. Even when  Yakov to tried commit suicide, Stalin still showed no compassion for his son and complained that ‘He can’t even shoot straight’.

Yakov joined the Red Army at the outset of war in the East in June 1941, serving as a lieutenant in the artillery. A month after the Nazi invasion on 16 July, Yakov was captured and taken prisoner.

Ref: AWNS-19411126-24-2, Red Army soldiers examine war trophies, 1941, Sir George Grey Special Collections
Documents found at the US State Department in Washington in 1968 had enabled researchers to reconstruct Yakov last few years. However, it wasn't until access was granted to Spiegel magazine to the Stalin file at the Central Archive of the Russian Ministry of Defence in Podolsk (south of Moscow), that other pieces of the puzzle started to fall into place. According to the article in Spiegel,  a '389-page document tells the story of a young man whose life was spent in the shadow of his overpowering father and ended after only 35 years. They also provide, 70 years after the Battle of Stalingrad, unexpected insights into the family life of a dictator'.

The letter written containing evidence about Yakov's surrender was written by Yakov's brigade commissar, Alexei Rumyanzev, to the Red Army's political director. Whilst contradictory at times, the letter implies that Yakov willingly surrendered or allowed himself to be captured. The original interrogation report records his anti-Semitic views (despite having a Jewish wife), which were common in the Soviet Union at this time and whilst proud of his country, he was highly critical of the Red Army.

Whilst Russian propaganda held on to the story of capture, memoirs written by Stalin's daughter, Svetlana Alliluyeva state that her father believed his son had deliberately surrendered to the Germans at the encouragement of his wife Yulia. Although  there doesn't appear to be proof of Yulia's involvement, Stalin disliked his daughter in law and had her  imprisonment, tortured and interrogated anyway.

Ref: AWNS-19411126-25-7, Packing present for the Red Army, Sir George Grey Special Collections
After the German defeat at the Battle of Stalingrad in 1943, the Nazis offered to exchange Yakov for one of their own prisoners but Stalin refused the offer, stating that he would not negotiate with the Nazis. His views on prisoners would have also been an influencing factor - Stalin viewed all prisoners to be traitors and those who surrendered to be ‘malicious deserters'.

There are suspicions that Yakov committed suicide or was murdered in the concentration camp. However, the file from Washington indicated that whilst being held prisoner in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in eastern Germany, Yakov succumbed to a prison psychosis and committed suicide in 1943 by electrocuting himself on a perimeter fence. He was subsequently shot by guards.

In 1945, Soviet military administration in Germany searched for Yukov's remains. An urn containing the ashes of the man killed in Sachsenhausen arrived sometime later in Berlin, only to mysteriously disappear, leaving an air of mystery surrounding Stalin's first born son.