Stalin‘s son Yakov was captured while fighting Nazis in 1941. Nazis offered to exchange him for Friedrich Paulus, the German Field Marshal captured by the Soviets, but Stalin turned the offer down allegedly saying, “I will not trade a Marshal for a Lieutenant. Yakov died in captivity.
Dzhugashvili served as an artillery officer in the Red Army and was captured on 16 July 1941 in the early stages of the German invasion of USSR at the Battle of Smolensk. The Germans later offered to exchange Yakov for Friedrich Paulus, the German Field Marshal captured by the Soviets after the Battle of Stalingrad, but Stalin turned the offer down, allegedly saying, “I will not trade a Marshal for a Lieutenant.” According to some sources, there was another proposition as well, that Hitler wanted to exchange Yakov for Hitler’s nephewLeo Raubal; this proposition was not accepted either. While Soviet propaganda always asserted that Dzhugashvili was captured, Stalin’s daughter, Svetlana Alliluyeva, wrote in her memoirs that her father believed his son deliberately surrendered to the Germans after being encouraged to do so by his wife. Stalin, she wrote, had Yulia imprisoned and interrogated as a result. In February 2013 Der Spiegel printed evidence that it interpreted as indicating that Yakov surrendered. A letter written by Dzhugashvili’s brigade commissar to the Red Army’s political director, quoted by Der Spiegel, states that after Dzhugashvili’s battery had been bombed by the Germans, he and another soldier initially put on civilian clothing and escaped, but then at some point Dzhugashvili stayed behind, saying that he wanted to stay and rest.
Until recently, it was not clear when and how he died. According to the official German account, Dzhugashvili died by running into an electric fence in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, where he was being held. Some have contended that Yakov committed suicide at the camp, while others have suggested that he was murdered. Currently, declassified files show that Dzhugashvili was shot by a guard for refusing to obey orders. While Dzhugashvili was walking around the camp he was ordered back to the barracks under the threat of being shot. Dzhugashvili refused and shouted, “Shoot!” The guard shot him in the head. Either way, this was seen by Stalin as a more honourable death, and Stalin’s attitude towards his son softened slightly.
After the war, British officers in charge of captured German archives came upon the papers depicting Dzhugashvili’s death at Sachsenhausen. The British Foreign Officeconsidered briefly to present these papers to Stalin at the Potsdam Conference as a gesture of condolence. They scrapped the idea because neither the British nor the Americans had informed the Soviets about the fact that they had captured key German archives. Sharing those papers with Stalin would have prompted the Soviets to inquire about the source of these records.