Svetlana Parshina, MA in History

Key words/ hashtags: Stalin, Hitler, WWII, Germany, CIA, Soviet Union, intelligence, investigation

WWII for the Soviet Union began on June 22nd, 1941. That very same day in Kubinka, lieutenant Yakov Iosifovich Dzhugashvili, among others, was given orders to move with his Haubitze to the front line. His father was Commander-in-Chief Joseph Stalin, but him and his brother Vassily, also in the military as pilot, were treated equal to other sons, whose duty was to defend Motherland after Hitler`s Army attacked first. On July 20th, 1941, Hitler announced that Guderian Army captured Joseph Stalin`s son, just in time when an order arrived to give Yakov Dzhugashvili Red Star for his fight in the first days of war. The order and the award were dismissed for the obvious reasons…. For years the fate of Yakov Dzhugashvili remained uncertain, so he was considered missing. His wife Yulia Meltser and daughter Galina Dzhugashvili never lost hope that they find his grave, or him alive and well, but only Yakov`s grandson Selim Bensaad managed to solve this mystery, digging up the archives all over the world to gather all the missing pieces for our book “Secrets of the Stalin Family”.

In 2005, CIA Electronic Library declassified a very interesting document, a communication between a CIA agent and a MI-5 officer regarding Yakov Dzhugashvili and the possibility that he could escape death in prison camp, quoting “With respect to the possibility that DZHUGASHVILI survived into the postwar period, the only significant report in our files came to us from the Bundeibachrichtendienst (BND) in July 1960. A senior BND liaison officer, who claimed hirself to have interrogated Jacob STALIN for a few hous during 1942, reported to us that a BND contact who also had known Jacob STALIN during the war claimed to have seen STALIN by accident in Paris “about four months ago” (March or April 1960). The BND contact claimed that Jacob STALIN fled when approached. The BND liaison officer also said that “a few weeks ago” (prior to July 1960) the BND had received a report from a source of unknown reliability indicating that the Soviet intelligence was trying to determine the whereabouts of Jacob STALIN. Allegedly, the Soviets feared Jacob could emerge as the head of an anti-Soviet group in the West and therefore was interested in locating and assassinating him.”

So, could that be possible for Joseph Stalin`s elder son, an officer in the Soviet Army, to escape? According to the statements, made by Galina Yakovlevna Dzhugashvili in the interview, dated June 2007 to our book publisher`s newspaper “Komsomolskaya Pravda”, she believed that her father was killed in a battle and the Germans found a double to impersonate him as POW in prison for propaganda purposes. German propaganda did throw flyers with pictures of Yakov in prison camp, urging people to surrender to German troops, so they could “enjoy hot meals and feel great and comfortable”. In fact, these photos were photoshopped by Leni Riefenstal`s studio, because Yakov refused to cooperate and spent a lot of time in Kartser – the Punishment Cell. 

When visiting sister of Yakov Dzhugashvili Svetlana Alliluyeva in July of 2007 in her Spring Green, Wisconsin state apartment, I showed her the interview that her niece Galina gave to “Komsomolskaya Pravda” newspaper and asked to confirm or oppose these words. Alliluyeva stated: “Yakov, indeed, was captured, no double was necessary. Like a true officer, he couldn’t leave his Gaubitze. But, we don’t know how exactly he died, whether he threw himself onto the electrified wire or was shot.” Then, I asked whether her father Stalin really said “I don`t exchange generals for leutenants”, when asked about the possibility of an exchange of the captured in the battle for Stalingrad Paulus Army generals, along with Adolf Hitler`s favorite nephew Leo Raubal for Yakov and some other Soviet officers. Svetlana Alliluyeva responded, “We don`t know what he said, but the fact is that he refused that exchange.” Later on, in memoirs of Stalin`s secretary I found out what exactly Iosif Vissarionovich said after a long pause, “What would other fathers think about me, if I agree to this exchange?”

Newspapers are archived and can be part of the search for the truth, but, a lot of times this information, published from reliable sources even with fact-checking is inaccurate and can be used only as secondary search. So, together with my co-author Selim Bensaad, whose father is of Algerian descent, we went to the FSB archive to see the file on Yakov Dzhugashvili. Selim`s only relic left from his grandfather is the last letter he wrote on June 26th in 1941 to his wife. FSB archive file for Yakov Dzhugarshvili consists of his prison record-card, interrogation protocols and a photocopy of a note he wrote to his father, saying, “19.7.41 Dear father! I am in capture, healthy, soon to be convoyed to one of the prison camps for officers in Germany. The treatment is good. Wish health. Hello to all. Yasha”

Selim immediately gave a negative reaction to this photocopie of the note, saying it is a fake, because he couldn`t believe his grandfather wrote it. In response, FSB prepared a paper statement that his grandfather really was captured, but, as a POW he acted like a hero and never betrayed his Motherland. Later on, I found out that the original letter was handed to Stalin by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Molotov, but later only photocopy remained in the FSB file. 

The prison camp for officers in Germany where Yakov was transferred located in Lubeck. That means information from the CIA document could be worth checking, because that BND agent claimed the right location and timing too, about interrogating Yakov Dzhugashvili in Lubeck. There were other witnesses and a document in a Brussels archive from the French Military Intelligence about the prisoners in Lubeck, which also named famous relatives of the Rothschilds and Sir Winston Churchill in the same company with Yakov Dzhugashvili. But, later Yakov was transferred to Sachsenhausen concentration camp in Oranieburg, Germany.

The reason to transfer Yakov Dzhugashvili to worse conditions could be that the Soviets found out about his location and attempted to arrange an escape. There is a document stored at the GARF (Government Archive of the Russian Federation) where a Yugoslavian general Stefanovich testifies that he was in Lubeck and he was in contact with Yakov.  He also mentioned that Yakov was in the same prison cell with a son of French Prime Minister Leon Blum, captain of the Army Robert Blum. This document is stored in the special Stalin file, but the original intelligence information was addressed to Lavrentiy Beria, then chief of NKVD, who, in his turn, reported it to Stalin.

In 2003, a Pentagon representative on POWs Jerry Jenkins gave Galina Dzhigashvili a file of documents on her father, but those were copies. This Act of Goodwill happened at the American Embassy in Moscow. The documents confirmed that Yakov Dzhugashvili died in Sachsenhausen concentration camp on April 14th in 1943 by throwing himself onto electric wire fence. His death certificate was signed by Heinrich Himmler, after a special commission was sent to investigate the case of a possible suicide. The body was cremated and the ashes were sent to Berlin, where the trace disappears. So, what did Svetlana Alliluyeva mean when she said they don’t know how exactly her elder brother Yakov died? 

Russian Government Archive of Social-Political History in Moscow (abbreviated as RGASPI), has the biggest collection, or the archivists call it a fund of documents in relation to Stalin and his family. We managed to find a 5-page document addressed to the Minister of Internal Affairs tovarisch Kruglov S.N. about the captured on July 10th of 1946 by the Operatives in Berlin Paul Hensher, who translated interrogation with POW Yakov Dzhugashvili in 1941. Through Hensner, the operatives managed to find names of the Germans who worked at Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp. Then, they found out those were arrested by the Americans in 1945. The Soviets requested the Americans to transfer the arrested, among those were the commandant of the camp SS colonel Anton Kaindl and the commander of security battalion Wegner for interrogation. Here is the version of what happened to Yakov Dzhugashvili, who was in Barrack number two:

“The arrested had they walk near the barrack. AT 7pm, SS Jungling, who was watching them, told them to go back into barrack and all went. Dzhugashvili didn`t go and demanded to see the commandant of the camp. Jungling repeated his order, but Dzhugashvili refused to obey. Then, the SS said he`d go make a telephone call to Kaindl.  During his phone conversation, Jungling said to Kaindl that he heard a gun shot and hung up the phone.  At the same time, as Kaindl testified, the following happened:

Dzhugashvili, walking in his thoughts, crossed the neutral area towards the electrified wire fence. Prison sentry shouted him to stop, but Dzhugashvili continued walking. Prison sentry shouted that he will shoot. After that shout, Dzhugashvili tore apart his shirt and screamed, “Shoot!” Prison Sentry shot him in his head. 

The arrested Kaindl, to justify his participation in shooting Dzhugashvili added to his interrogation, that Dzhugashvili at the same time with the shoot grabbed the electrified wire and fell on it. The body was keep in that position for 24 hours, until Himmler ordered to take it for investigation to the crematorium. Then, two professors from the Imperium Chancellery arrived and prepared the death certificate, confirming that Dzhugashvili was killed by an electric wire, and the gunshot followed later. Also, it was written that the prison sentry did everything right, according to the instruction. As Kaindl stated, he was very afraid during investigation that he’ll get in trouble with Himmler, but everything turned out OK.”

According to this 5-page report, signed by General Serov in Berlin, Kaindl didn`t tell the truth about his participation in killing Dzhigashvili, but the Soviets couldn`t push too hard, since the prisoners attempted to commit suicide in their cell. Also, Americans insisted on trial.

Nowadays, Sachsenhausen concentration camp is a museum.  Spiegel magazine published a story about Yakov Dzhugashvili with an exclusive photo of his body handing on a wire. And, from all angles it looks like the death certificate put the wrong cause of death. A shot in the head from such a long distance in the evening could be done only by a professional sniper, not to mention the movements of a man on electrified wire made it nearly impossible. What we know now is that Sachsenhausen camp practiced a very pragmatical approach to eliminating prisoners to save resources to kill people. A prisoner would go for medical examination and get shot in the head from behind, while sitting on a stool. It is possible, that Yakov was shot like that, but they later realized it was a big mistake, so they staged it as a suicide, by throwing his body onto the wire. No witnesses from fellow prisoners were present to confirm. But the dead body could be seen and used as a threat to others for 24 hours, until Himmler`s commission arrived. 

In conclusion, there is no doubt that Yakov Dzhugashvili was captured and treated badly as POW. His ears from the photo in capture match with the ears on his pre-war photos. His interrogations show that he remained faithful to his Motherland and his father. His ashes were sent to the Imperium Chancellery and later disappeared. Maybe we find them some day? As for Leo Raubal, Hitler`s nephew who was captured with Paulus Army in Stalingrad, he was released from jail in 1955 and worked as a teacher until his retirement. He died in Spain in 1977. For Yakov Dzhugashvili`s only daughter, born from a Jewish mother, whom he mentions in his interrogations, life had an interesting turn when she fell in love with an Algerian exchange student Hocine Bensaad and they had a son Selim, my co-author. Galina Yakovlevna was a philologist and a specialist in Maghrib countries, thanks to her husband. She taught French and translated a lot of French language poetry and prose. Yakov`s only grandson became a painter. When we went with him to RGVA (Russian Government Military Archive) and he saw Hitler`s paintings, he said, “I look at it and imagine a parallel history, what if Hitler`s teacher didn`t tell him his painting were so bad? Could we avoid WWII? And, if yes, maybe I could meet my grandfather then?” Selim was born in 1971… If Hitler succeeded, it wouldn`t have been possible for him to be born in such a family. Let`s try to remember that and never let it repeat again.

Galina Dzhugashvili with copies of documents at the American Embassy in Moscow.

Selim Bensaad at the FSB archive pointing at the photogy of Yakov`s written note to his father

CIA file from Electronic Library site.

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