Stalin’s son, Jakov Djugashvili Stalin was an engineer by profession, During the Second World War, he served as a senior lieutenant and battery commander of the 14th Howitzer Regiment, attached to the 14th Tank Division and was captured on 16 July 1941 near Vitebsk by the Nazis.
On discovering that their prisoner was Stalin’s son, the Germans attempted to exploit him for propaganda purposes, but did not succeed. Refusing privileges, he asked to remain with the rank-and-file soldiers. In all the photographs of jakov, he deliberately refuses to look directly at the camera. This didn’t prevent the Germans from leafletting to Red Army soldiers “Do not shed your blood for Stalin! He has already fled to Samara! His own son has surrendered! If Stalin’s son is saving his own skin, then you are not obliged to sacrifice yourself either!”
After the battle of Stalingrad, Hitler suggested through the Swedish Red Cross that Jakov be exchanged for Field Marshal Paulus. Stalin refused, saying: “A marshal would not be exchanged for a lieutenant”. Hitler’s counter proposition to exchange Jakov for Hitler’s nephew Leo Raubal was not accepted either. (Jakov never got along with his dad, who called him a “mere cobbler.”) Djugashvili died on the electrified wire of Sachenhausen concentration camp on 14 April 1943, below. Much controversy surrounded the death. Some believe it was suicide, others a failed escape attempt. Some saw the dirty hand of the German SS behind.
After the war, in an uncharacteristic move, Stalin offered a $250,000 reward in East Germany to anyone who could provide details of how Jakov died. In 1945, U.S. and British intelligence teams found a letter by Heinrich Himmler on details of the failed escape attempt and attached was the below picture of young Stalin stretched out on the camp fence. They decided, however, to withhold the information from Stalin in order to spare him any personal pain.