This was the German withdrawal from the island of Saaremaa (Ösel in German) off the coast of Estonia as a result of the ‘Moonzund Offensive Operation’ (23/25 November 1944).
By 23 November, any continued German defence had become impossible, so Generalfeldmarschall Ferdinand Schörner, commanding Heeresgruppe ‘Nord’, ordered that the remnants of the German garrison be evacuated, despite the fact that Adolf Hitler had issued orders that the island was to be defended to the last man. By the early hours of 24 November all surviving German had been pulled out by the vessels of Fregattenkapitän Adalbert von Blanc’s 9th Sicherungsdivision to Windau (Ventspils) on the embattled Kurland peninsula by a naval force under the command of Generalmajor Karl Henke.
The survivors totalled some 4,500 men including 700 wounded, representing around 25% of the original defending force. Previous casualties had been evacuated earlier, along with Soviet prisoners and a large portion of the Estonian civil population desiring to avoid a return to Soviet rule. All remaining guns and vehicles were destroyed and left, and about 1,400 horses were shot to prevent their use by the Soviets.