|Ref: AWNS-19431117-18-1, Red Armies drive westward, 1943, Heritage Images|
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|
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|
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.